Microsoft partly blames U.S. government for global cyberattack

The ransomware has been identifed as Wanna Cry- here shown in a safe environment on a security researcher's computer. /BBC

British media had reported past year that most public health organizations were using an outdated version of Microsoft Windows that was not equipped with security updates.

Friday's attack largely hit businesses and large organizations: United Kingdom hospitals, a Spanish telecom, FedEx, the Russian Interior Ministry, and more. In the US, FedEx along with other companies felt the brunt of it.

On affected computers running Windows, the WannaCrypt software encrypts files and displays a ransom message demanding $300 in the online currency bitcoin.

"There's some truth to the idea that people are always going to hack themselves", said Dan Wire, a spokesman for security firm FireEye. "Still, the NSA can't be very proud of this". If your computer runs Windows, make sure your operating system is updated.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also called for more visibility into the government's use of security flaws, saying Wanna Cry "points to the need for transparency into and reform of how the government handles software vulnerabilities it retains". Brad Smith, Microsoft's top lawyer, criticized US intelligence agencies for "stockpiling" software code that can be used by hackers. "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".

Smith's statement made no mention of pirated Microsoft software, users of which can not download the security patch. ".@NSAGov's choices risked permitting low-skill criminals launch government-scale attacks, and then it happened", Snowden tweeted on Saturday.

If there's anything, Microsoft should indeed be appreciated for their response on the entire issue.

"If your software is not patched, you can exploit that user".

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It said computers running on the desktop and server editions of the Microsoft Windows operating system are most impacted. But older systems, including Windows XP which hasn't seen official support since 2014, were still vulnerable. This helps limit the spread of ransomware if hackers do get into your system. He noted, however, the complexity that can be involved in patching a security hole. But because so many companies didn't apply it, the so-called WannaCry attack spread like cholera.

But policy making isn't necessarily the only solution, said Casey Ellis, CEO of San Francisco cybersecurity company Bugcrowd. Backups often are also out of date and missing critical information.

Should you ever pay the ransom?

"We could use a national cybersecurity policy", said Gartner cybersecurity analyst Avivah Litan.

It said there have been over 700 distress calls by customers in the last few days, following the discovery of the attacks which has impacted 150 countries globally.

"The operating systems on our computers and software downloads are managed centrally so that regular users can not download executable files from the internet without administrative rights", he said in an email.

The software company released security updates in March to address certain vulnerabilities that these WannaCry attacks are exploiting.

Several British hospitals say they are having major computer problems Hospitals in London, northwest England and other parts of the country are reporting problems with their computer systems as the result of an apparent cyberattack, Friday May 12, 2017.

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