Microsoft's President Reflects On Cyberattack, Helping Pirates And The NSA

Lucky break slows cyberattack; what's coming could be worse

The ransomware cyber-attack that occurred on May 12, 2017, has wreaked global havoc as computers using the Microsoft Windows XP and 2003 operating systems had their data encrypted by unknown perpetrators who demanded victims pay a ransom for their data to be decrypted.

"This particular vulnerability was exposed by the WikiLeaks in March saying that the US' NSA was using this vulnerability in Windows operating systems to target individuals".

On Sunday, Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, wrote a blog post describing the company's efforts to stop the ransomware's spread, including an unusual step it took to release a security update for versions of Windows that Microsoft no longer supports. Therefore, when the vulnerabilities got into the wrong hands, it is akin to the "US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen" without the necessary defence to protect consumers.

In Great Britain, as the ransomware infections cascaded through scores of hospitals, doctors' offices, and ambulance companies on Friday, patients were diverted away from emergency rooms, caretakers were left without access to important information, and the government was forced to declare a "major incident", cautioning residents that local health services could become overwhelmed. "Flaws in a single Microsoft product, service or policy not only affect the quality of our platform and services overall, but also our customers' view of us as a company".

Map shows the extent of the Wannacry ransomware attack till May 14.

Sberbank and its rival bank VTB did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment on Friday.

The NSA and other intelligence services generally aim to balance disclosing software flaws they unearth against keeping them secret for espionage and cyber warfare purposes.

The most extensive ransomware attack in history spread around the globe over the weekend.

One of the suggestions Smith makes is to treat vulnerabilities in the same way other weapons are handled.

Other tools from the presumed NSA toolkit published by the Shadow Brokers have also been repurposed by criminals and are being sold on underground forums, researchers said.

Nonetheless, WannaCry had done its damage. "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?"

"Out of that batch, it is probably a high-water mark", Manky said.

However, the immediate preventive measure before any more ransomware attacks emerge is upgrade all Windows systems, said the security firm.

"NSA should be embarrassed - they've had a lot of damaging leaks", said James Lewis, a former United States official who is now a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Microsoft did not confirm to AFP when it made the patch free.

"You can point a lot of fingers, but I think given that this was not a zero-day vulnerability (for which no patch is available), the people hacked are to blame", said Robert Cattanach, a partner at the worldwide law firm Dorsey & Whitney and an expert on cybersecurity and data breaches. A source familiar with the matter said equities meetings still take place but less frequently than they did under the Obama administration. "Yet, when a serious vulnerability is discovered in software, many companies respond slowly or say it's not their problem".



Other news