Microsoft blames United States government for 'stockpiling' vulnerabilities

19 Mai, 2017, 22:54 | Author: Claudine Rigal
  • Ransomware

For many years cyber security has been one of the major frictions in bilateral relations between China and the U.S., with Washington often pointing an accusing finger at Beijing, claiming it is engaged in state-sponsored cyber espionage, although it has offered no credible evidence to support its accusation.

The attack started Friday and has affected computers in more than 150 countries, including severe disruptions at the United Kingdom's National Health Service.

WannaCry uses an exploit known as EternalBlue-developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and leaked online past year by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. It effectively takes the computer hostage and demands a $300 ransom, to be paid in 72 hours with the bitcoin digital currency.

The malware only affects Microsoft's Windows operating system, exploiting a vulnerability in it. The cyber attack has also reignited the debate over whether or not governments should disclose vulnerabilities that they discover, instead of stockpiling them to use it to their advantage as and when needed.

Although the argument that it's the NSA's fault has merit, Microsoft should shoulder blame too, according to Alex Abdo, staff lawyer at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

Microsoft is pointing its finger at the US Government, while many experts say the software giant is also accountable.

"Clearly having the vulnerability be in Microsoft software was one of the key elements", said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer of McAfee, a security company in Santa Clara, California. Tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple, Google and others have been adamant that governments should not have backdoors into their software because the vulnerabilities could fall into the wrong hands.

WannaCry has proven so nasty and ubiquitous that Microsoft took the unusual step of releasing security fixes for long-abandoned operating systems, including Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, since they are still widely used in some corners of the world and WannaCry has been a worldwide problem.

WannaCry exploits a weakness within the older versions of Windows 7 and XP.

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Sudesh Shetty, Partner, Forensics, KPMG in India, said: "Banks need to apply the patch which Windows has released for outdated operating systems". When this happens, you can't get to the data unless you pay a ransom.

"The size of the outbreak is indicative of the number of machines out there which have not been patched with security updates".

But many users had not installed the patch by the time EternalBlue was dumped on the Internet in April.

One hopes that WannaCrypt has taught at least a few computer users an important lesson about software security.

The attack was a reminder that people and businesses should keep their software up to date, or else remain vulnerable, Smith said. "That's going to become a more common practice".

Who are affected by WannaCry?

Some security researchers have said that it was possible for the North Korea-linked Lazarus Group to be behind the attack, but added that they would have to do more research. Others subsequently confirmed the Google researcher's work.

People running older software will often claim that they're clinging to it because they can't afford to buy newer computers, or because now supported operating systems conflict with another piece of software that they're using. For older versions, Microsoft has issued patches in the wake of WannaCry.

Spanish firm Telefonica, French automaker Renault, the USA -based delivery service FedEx and the German railway Deutsche Bahn were among those affected. "To keep the world safe, these things have to be done".

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