WANNACRY ATTACK: NHS, major organisations left reeling by co-ordinated hack

 

Winnipeg – VIJAY SHAH via Winnipeg Free Press and ReportCA.net

Several of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service trusts, as well as numerous large companies across the globe are still recovering from a large-scale ‘unprecedented’ ransomware cyber attack which occurred this weekend, ReportCA.net wrote yesterday.

The ‘cyberextortion’ attack, which involved hackers accessing computers via phishing emails, and locking systems and encrypting company data, also affected numerous firms engaged in the manufacturing, finance and transport sectors. Government agencies were also caught up in the debacle. Technicians at the NHS, which offers subsidised healthcare in the U.K., scrambled to limit the spread of the ransomware, which caused problems with accessing patient data and hospital appointments, among other things. Many companies ordered their employees to disconnect their workstations from the Internet and to avoid opening emails from unfamiliar sources.

Such was the scale of this weekend’s mass attack, Microsoft was moved into changing its cybersecurity policy, making free of charge updates and patches for computers running older packages such as Windows XP, which many small and medium enterprises still rely on, due to the expense of system upgrades or lack of technical knowledge and ICT skills.

 

 

 

Apart from the NHS, Spain’s Telefonica and Iberdrola also reported computers being targeted. The German national railway Deutsche Ban was another victim. ReportCA.net published a photo taken by an eyewitness at Chemnitz rail station, showing a display board for train times. The screen was partly obscured by a red and white pop-up with a padlock logo, a sight reported by other victims of the attack. The hackers locked out users and demanded payment in bitcoin currency to release encrypted data. Other victims included the Russian Interior Ministry, the country’s mobile phone operators MTS and MegaFon, French car maker Renault, and football clubs in Europe. One long-established club, IF Odd, said Saturday that its online ticketing service was crippled by the ransomware.

The British home secretary Amber Rudd said that one in five of her country’s 248 NHS trusts, which manage hospitals and patient services above general practitioner level, had been hit. Thousands of patient appointments and operations, including for serious conditions, were cancelled, as medical staff were frozen out of their databases and systems. According to Rudd, 48 trusts were affected, but quick reaction times by their ICT departments meant that as of yesterday, only six were still reporting issues. The National Cyber Security Centre also stepped in to mitigate the impact of the attack.

Cybersecurity officials urged both individuals and companies to ensure they regularly update their anti-virus and security systems, enact security updates if they are Windows users and to back-up data on a separate server or in the cloud.

The source of the attack is as yet unknown, although Russian and Chinese hackers have targeted companies and governmental agencies in the West in past years. Two cybersecurity firms, Avast and Kaspersky Lab, have said that the ransomware attacked PCs in 70 countries, with Russia the most affected. There have been reports that the hackers used the WannaCry ransomware program, said to have been based on spying technology utilised by America’s NSA (National Security Agency). More than 36,000 infections were detected by yesterday. It is reported that the hackers behind ‘WannaCry’ stole the hacking tools from the NSA, which created the tool to exploit a loophole in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

Ori Eisen, founder of Trusona cybersecurity firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA, warned that the WannaCry attack is just the beginning and another more advanced attack could have serious and potentially lethal implications. Speaking with the Associated Press news agency, Eisen said: This is child”s play, what happened. This is not the serious stuff yet. What if the same thing happened to 10 nuclear power plants, and they would shut down all the electricity to the grid? What if the same exact thing happened to a water dam or to a bridge?” he asked.

“Today, it happened to 10,000 computers,” Eisen said. “There”s no barrier to do it tomorrow to 100 million computers.”

Intranational policing agency Europol described the attack as at “an unprecedented level and will require a complex international investigation to identify the culprits.”

The onslaught of WannaCry was successfully halted after a 22-year-old British cybersecurity researcher, known only by his or her tag ‘MalwareTech’ accidently stumbled across a ‘kill switch’ that disabled the ransomware. By entering a nonsensical domain name, MalwareTech was able to stop the malware spreading further. He or she purchased the domain name for around £9, yet this quick thinking decision saved companies millions in potential damage control. The kill switch only worked for those not affected however, and many organisations who were already hit were forced to pay the ransom demand or call up emergency data stocks.

SOURCES:

HEM Newsbreakers, HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-newsbreakers

Report 24 Canada, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Report24CA

“Unprecedented global “ransomware” attack seeks cash for data” – Winnipeg Free Press via ReportCA.net (13 May 2017) https://reportca.net/2017/05/unprecedented-global-ransomware-attack-seeks-cash-for-data/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:Wana Decrypt0r screenshot.png” – WannaCry via SecureList, Wikimedia Commons (12 May 2017) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wana_Decrypt0r_screenshot.png

 

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FRANCE ELECTIONS: Last runoff between Macron and Le Pen begins, hackers cause havoc

Paris – VIJAY SHAH via JON HENLEY and The Guardian

The last stage of the French presidential elections has begun in earnest, with the European country’s voters choosing between centre-leaning former economist Emmanuel Macron and leader of the far-right nationalist party Front National, Marine Le Pen, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports.

Akin to the recent U.S. presidential elections where Russian hackers were accused of interfering with the system to guarantee a win for current president Donald Trump, the French voting rally has been marred by recent reports of a ‘massive online dump’ of campaign data by unknown parties and attributed to Macron’s new political movement.

 

Ten of thousands of stolen emails and documents, some claimed to be fake, were put in the public domain. Fearful of the likely impact on the outcome of the election, the French government has made it a criminal offence for the data to be published. The Senate also declared an electioneering blackout lasting until the close of polls today at 8 pm local time.

Macron’s election team, the En Marche! movement, condemned the hack, saying that it was clearly an attempt at democratic destabilisation, like that seen during the last presidential campaign in the US,”

The bitter and divisive at times runoffs are a litmus test for the future direction of politics not only in France, but also in Europe, particularly as politics in the developed world increasingly swings towards the far-right. Far-right candidates were recently just about kept out of the presidential palace in Austria, and are increasingly grabbing a greater share of the vote in the U.K. and Netherlands. The two forerunners in the French elections are also polar opposites. The Guardian writes: Macron, a 39-year-old former banker and economy minister running as an independent centrist, is economically liberal, socially progressive, globally minded and upbeat. Le Pen is a nation-first protectionist who wants to close France’s borders and possibly leave the euro and the EU.”

The last polls, published on Friday, suggest that Emmanuel Macron has a lead over Marine Le Pen of around 22-23 percentage points, buoyed in part by a recent controversial televised debate, where Le Pen was said to have spent more time laying into her rival than promoting her party’s policies to the country’s electorate.

“The commission calls on everyone present on internet sites and social networks – primarily the media, but also all citizens – to show responsibility and not pass on this content so as not to distort the sincerity of the ballot,” the national election commission said on Saturday.

Most French media decided not to break the news of the hack, whose origin was not mentioned by the Guardian. France’s leading broadsheet, Le Monde, declared it would not publish any of the 9 gigabytes of leaked data, due to both its volume and the risk of influencing the election’s outcome.

“If these documents contain revelations, Le Monde will of course publish them after having investigated them, respecting our journalistic and ethical rules, and without allowing ourselves to be exploited by the publishing calendar of anonymous actors,” the paper said.

The data was dumped onto popular sharing service Pastebin under a profile named EMLEAKS. The targeted political movement, Macron’s En Marche! (On the March!) were not perturbed by the public release of the data, saying that most of the emails were from day-to-day operations, and that some files were false, put in with the dump to ‘sow doubt and disinformation’.

France’s vote will be run in stages, with residents of the country’s overseas departments and territories being the first to mark their ballot papers. Saint Pierre and Miquelon, a small dependency off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland island, will be the first to cast their votes. French people in the diaspora will also take priority in voting, before Metropolitan France’s 47 million voters will begin visiting around 70,000 polling stations today.

SOURCES:

Google News https://news.google.co.uk/?ar=1494148359

“French election: voting begins as France decides between Macron and Le Pen” – Jon Henley, The Guardian/Guardian News and Media Limited (7 May 2017) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/07/voting-begins-in-final-round-of-french-presidential-election

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:French presidential election P1200051.jpg” – David Monniaux, Wikimedia Commons (14 April 2007) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:French_presidential_election_P1200051.jpg