Microsoft Blames Spy Agencies for Ransomware Disaster

"This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem", Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a Sunday blog post.

Over the weekend, a cyber attack the likes of which the world has never seen held important data, pictures, and information hostage demanding Bitcoin ransom payments from anxious users everywhere.

Following the alert, the Gujarat government began equipping its state computer systems with anti-virus softwares and upgrading its Microsoft operating systems. Security company Symantec says that ransomware attacks jumped by more than one-third to over 483,800 incidents in 2016. Hackers stole the vulnerability from the NSA and others potentially used it to carry out the largest ever ransomeware attack, named WannaCrypt, beginning Friday. While Microsoft is warning users to protect themselves against WannaCry by taking caution when opening email attachments, security firm Symantec warns that WannaCry is also spreading "within corporate networks, without user interaction".

The ransomware had been leaked by a hacker group called Shadow Brokers in 2016 and although a patch was already available for the exploit, many systems had not been updated and were left crippled as the virus rolled out.

The malware program is called "WannaCry", and it was first uncovered in documents stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency, exposing a vulnerability to Microsoft's operating systems. This is an emerging pattern in 2017.

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Problems with cyber security in NHS organisations were highlighted previous year by Dame Fiona Caldicott, the national data guardian, who warned that issues were given insufficient priority and that health bodies persisted in using obsolete computer systems, The Times said.

In April these leaks included a software exploit named EternalBlue which was then used by the WannaCry ransomware to infect NHS computers running Windows, and which had been patched a month prior.

In a Microsoft blog post issued on Monday, company president Brad Smith called the WannaCry attack a "wake-up call" for the global governments and the tech sector to stop exploiting digital vulnerabilities and work together. But not everyone is prompt or has the access to update their systems, leading to untold vulnerable computers around the world.

Smith's post deflects criticism of Microsoft by noting that the company issued a patch for the vulnerability earlier this year, but many organizations didn't patch older computers. The VEP was established to determine whether the government should withhold or disclose information about computer software security vulnerabilities.

It comes after more than 200,000 victims in around 150 countries were infected by the ransomware which originated in the United Kingdom and Spain on Friday before spreading around the world.

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