Microsoft's free custom support could have stopped 'WannaCrypt'

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 19, 2017

"On May 12, a massive ransomware attack hit organizations around the world".

What is all the fuss about?

It says the latest virus exploits a flaw in Microsoft Windows identified by, and stolen from, U.S. intelligence. Microsoft provided a security update in March which stops the ransomware and other malware in Windows 7.

Not to mention the fact that those responsible were able to borrow weaponized software code apparently created by the U.S. National Security Agency to launch the attack in the first place.

Meanwhile, WannaCrypt locked up machines, encrypted files and demanded approximately $600 in Bitcoin for a recovery key. "But at the same time, I also know that if you're someone who's been affected and you've lost all your children's photographs or you've lost all your data or you lost your thesis, sometimes $300 is worth it, you know?" The WannaCry attack shows this may not be the case with many organisations.

Experts said it appeared that the ransomware had made just over $32,000, although they expected that number to pop when people went back into the office Monday. The majority of organizations affected, on Friday and later, was in Europe, according to Symantec. Nissan Motor Co. confirmed Monday, May 15, 2017, some units had been targeted, but there was no major impact on its business.

The Inquirer reported that in May 2015, the United Kingdom government - whose health services were affected by WannaCry - would not renew its Windows XP support agreement with Microsoft.

"But if a server is connected directly to the internet or a PC is on the same network as an infected computer, it can spread quickly - which is exactly what has happened", the Engadget report added.

Had the NSA notified Microsoft at the time of discovery, hospitals would have had years not weeks to patch their systems.

With more than 3,500 security engineers at the company, Microsoft said, it is fighting cybersecurity threats with constant updates to its Advanced Threat Protection service.

CERT-In further said that it sent out advisory to the Reserve Bank of India on the matter, on Saturday itself. And even finding a real person might be no help if they're in a jurisdiction that won't cooperate. At the helm of it all, was an advisory for governments around the world - particularly the USA government - to stop stockpiling of vulnerabilities.

"We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the Central Intelligence Agency show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world", Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said in a blog post on Sunday.

"An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", attorney Brad Smith wrote on Microsoft's blog.

Europol says ransomware attack has hit more than 100,000 organizations in 150 countries.

NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden also took to Twitter to lambast the NSA.

Investors should buy Microsoft shares because the recent cyberattacks will spur companies to upgrade to the technology giant's latest operating system, according to Credit Suisse, which reiterated its outperform rating on the software firm. "There's no waving that away", he said. "There are third-party providers out there that will offer off-site storage - specifically, for situations like this when you have a ransomware attack". That's like the basic 101 to avoid any cyber-attack.

Using antivirus software will at least protect you from the most basic, well-known viruses by scanning your system against the known fingerprints of these pests. Microsoft, on its part, has rolled out patches for even unsupported versions of Windows such as Vista and XP.

Microsoft cut special deals for government users in the first year, but the high costs led many - including the UK's National Health Service - to abandon the special support after one year, leaving them exposed to last week's attack.

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