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Ransomware cyber-attack a wake-up call

Ransomware is a type of wicked and malicious software that takes over the system of a computer. In this case, the attackers are asking for at least $300 in bitcoins for each computer affected by the attack. In Kerala, one of the most digitized states of India, half-a-dozen computers across two districts - Waynand and Patanamthitta - were affected.

Europol, the EU's policing arm, warned that the cyberattack, known as "WannaCry", will continue to wreak havoc this week as people return to work and log onto their PCs.

And that's just a measure of the electronic consequences of WannaCry. Criminals tend to target systems such as Windows or the Android mobile operating system, because they are more widely used, increasing the chance of people falling victim.

The VNCERT said the ransomware is extremely risky as it is capable of stealing information and decrypting the entire system that has been infected.

Some are. The news site Quartz has set up a Twitter bot to track the bitcoin wallets linked to the attack, which are growing fatter by the minute. The longer the users wait, the higher the ransom money.

Nearly all the corporations and organisations are upgrading their firewalls.

That raises questions about inequality in technology, said Stewart Baker, a former general counsel at the National Security Agency.

In addition to Microsoft's Security Bulletin MS17-010 that patched the vulnerability in March, the company also issued a separate patch on Friday for users of older and unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP.

Businesses could face legal claims if they failed to deliver services because of the attack, said Edward McAndrew, a data privacy lawyer at Ballard Spahr.

The government has said the ransomware outbreak at the NHS was not a targeted attack on the UK's health service.

Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at Gartner, agreed that the government is "is negligent not doing a better job protecting companies", but added that it's not like "you can stop the US government from developing cybertools" that then work as intended. "It's going to be a cost of staying in business". It was benign because it contained a flaw that prevented it from taking over computers and demanding ransom to unlock files but other more malicious ones will likely pop up. But Darien Huss, a ProofPoint researcher in IN, confirmed that what MalwareTech had actually triggered was a "kill switch" that instructed WannaCry to stop spreading. Once it's downloaded, the update file will walk you through the install process. However, computers, operators and networks that didn't update their operating systems were still at risk.

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- What about Apple and Android devices? The fact that ransomware based on a single vulnerability can cause such enormous damage should be a wakeup call to everyone about how vulnerable we are to cyberattacks.

A ransomware called WannaCry has infected tens of thousands of computers around the globe in recent days.

However, Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at security vendor F-Secure, tweeted on Monday that some victims who paid did get their files back.

- Who's behind the WannaCry attack?

WannaCry leverages a Windows vulnerability that the NSA knew about, and which was disclosed in January 2017.

Microsoft, by the way, isn't happy about this attack, and has slammed spy agencies for stockpiling vulnerabilities instead of reporting them to computer companies to be fixed. 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.

- How can I protect myself?

He stressed that consumers also have a pivotal role and must not be complacent.

Many experts say wiping your machine and relying on backups is a better way to go.

- Check your medical and credit reports for evidence of fraudulent activity.

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