WannaCry 2.0: Get Ready For a New Round of Ransomware Attacks

Man holds laptop computer as cyber code is projected on him in this illustration

Smith's blog post did not address another factor in the ransomware's spread, one that hints at the difficulty of uniting against a hacking attack: Users of pirated Microsoft software are unable to download the security patch, forcing them to fend for themselves or rely on a third-party source for a solution.

He argued there should be "a new requirement for governments to report vulnerabilities to vendors, rather than stockpile, sell, or exploit them".

"We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the Central Intelligence Agency show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world", Smith wrote in a blog post.

The spread ended when a MI researcher discovered a kill switch in the malware and shared the information with a British counterpart who had stopped the attack by registering a domain name.

Cyber security experts are urging those effected to not pay the ransom, stating that those effected might not get their files back even if they do pay the fee.

A source familiar with the matter said the ministry did not lose any information in the attacks.

"I still expect another to pop up and be fully operational", Kalember said.

The attackers told computer users to pay $300 to $600 in the anonymous bitcoin currency to retrieve files that the virus had decrypted, blocking owners from getting access. Windows XP computers, which have not been supported by the firm for more than three years, were especially at risk.

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The director of Europol raised fears that the cyber attack that has hit NHS services and global businesses "will continue to grow" as people return to work after the weekend. But overseas, high-profile organisations were affected, among them Russia's interior ministry, the United States logistics firm FedEx, Nissan and Hitachi in Japan, Britain's National Health Service and the Spanish telecommunications operator Telefonica.

It has been claimed that the way in which WannaCry has been designed means that most people are unlikely to ever see their files again.

The ransomware was initially found spreading through attachments in email phishing campaigns.

"It's this constant battle", said Ryan O'Leary, vice president of WhiteHat Security's threat research centre. "The bad guys are always one step ahead".

Dozens of local Chinese authorities said they had suspended some of their services due to the attack that has disrupted operations at vehicle factories, hospitals, shops and schools around the world. No details were disclosed.

It was too early to say who was behind the onslaught, which struck 100,000 organizations, and what their motivation was, aside from the obvious demand for money.

The obvious lesson is that computer operating systems need to be kept updated with the latest security software and data regularly backed up.

"Right now, just about every IT department has been working all weekend rolling this out", said Dan Wire, spokesman at Fireeye Security. Microsoft had released an update to fill the vulnerability the month before, apparently identifying the hole on its own.

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