What we currently know about the global cyberattack

2017-05-17 16:22
(iStock)

(iStock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New York— As danger from a global cyberattack that hit some 150 nations continues to fade, analysts are starting to assess the damage.

Hard-hit organisations such as the UK's National Health Service appear to be bouncing back, and few people seem to have actually paid the ransom.

But the attack has served as a live demonstration of a new type of global threat, one that could encourage future hackers.

Here's what we currently know about the ransomware known as WannaCry, which locked up digital photos, documents and other files to hold them for ransom.

WHERE IT CAME FROM

Researchers are still puzzling out how WannaCry got started. Figuring that out could yield important clues to the identity of its authors.

The malware spread rapidly inside computer networks by taking advantage of vulnerabilities in mostly older versions of Microsoft Windows.

That weakness was purportedly identified and stockpiled for use by the US National Security Agency; it was subsequently stolen and published on the internet.

But it remains unclear how WannaCry got onto computers in the first place. Experts said its rapid global spread suggests it did not rely on phishing, in which fake emails tempt the unwary to click on infected documents or links. 

Analysts at the European Union cybersecurity agency said the hackers likely scanned the internet for systems that were vulnerable to infection and exploited those computers remotely.

Once established, WannaCry encrypted computer files and displayed a message demanding $300 to $600 worth of the digital currency bitcoin to release them.

Failure to pay would leave the data scrambled and likely beyond repair unless users had unaffected backup copies.

RANSOM PAYMENTS

Investigators are closely watching three bitcoin accounts associated with WannaCry, where its victims were directed to send ransom payments.

The digital currency is anonymised, but it's possible to track funds as they move from place to place until they end up with an identifiable person.
So far, there have been no withdrawals from those accounts.

Given the scope of the attack, relatively few people appear to have actually paid the ransom. According to a Twitter account that monitors those accounts, they've received only about 250 payments worth a total of slightly more than $72 000.

NORTH KOREA

Several sets of investigators have now reported tentative findings that suggest hackers linked to North Korea might have been involved with WannaCry. But they could all be drawing conclusions from a very small set of clues.

On Monday, the Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab said portions of the WannaCry programme use the same code as malware previously distributed by the Lazarus Group, a hacker collective behind the 2014 Sony hack.

Another security company, Symantec, related the same findings, which it characterised as intriguing but "weak" associations, since the code could have been copied from the Lazarus malware.

Two law enforcement officials likewise said US investigators suspect North Korea based on code similarities; the officials called that finding preliminary.

The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorised to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

But WannaCry remains a puzzle, in part because some of its elements seemed amateurish. Salim Neino, CEO of the Los Angeles-based security firm Kryptos Logic, said the WannaCry worm was "poorly designed" — patched together and consisting of a "sum of different parts" with an unsophisticated payment system.

Typical ransomware also generates a unique bitcoin account for each payment to make tracing difficult. That wasn't done here.

DIGGING OUT

One of the organisations hardest hit by WannaCry — the UK's National Health Service — appears to be recovering.

On Friday, many NHS hospitals had to turn away patients after WannaCry locked up computers, forcing the closure of wards and emergency rooms.

NHS Digital, the body that oversees cybersecurity in Britain's health system, said that as of now, it has "no evidence that patient data has been compromised".

The agency told hospitals to disconnect all infected computers, apply a Microsoft patch that closes the vulnerability, then "roll back" the infected computers and restore them from backed-up files.

UK hospitals are supposed to back up data frequently and at multiple locations. It's possible that some data that wasn't backed up could be lost.

SIGN OF HACKS TO COME

WannaCry could also serve as a kind of template for future cyberattacks.

Neino of Kryptos Logic, for instance, said the leak of the NSA hacking tools have significantly narrowed the gap between nations and individuals or cyber gangs.

"The concern has always been, when are the real bad guys, the ones that don't care about rules of engagement, the ones who are really out to hurt us, will they become cyber-capable?" he said in an interview on Monday night with The Associated Press.

"I think today we found out that those who really want to hurt us have begun to, because they became cyber-capable the moment that the NSA cybertools were released."

Read more on:    cyber attacks

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/Sport
 

Chocolate can be fatal for dogs

Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine that is similar to caffeine and is toxic to dogs at certain levels.

 
 

Paws

Spider-man star's adorable relationship with his dog
Do you know what you are feeding your dog?
Watch: Proof animals have souls
Would you clone your pet?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.