‘WannaCry’: second malware wave feared; India on high alert

15 May 2017


The UK blogger who almost accidentally discovered a 'kill switch' that has slowed the spread of a 'WannaCry' virus wreaking havoc across the globe has revealed that the world is facing a fresh cyber attack from malicious hackers who are trying to sabotage the fix.

The 22-year-old accidental hero, who lives at home in the south of England with his mother and father,  spotted a loophole in the code that meant he could block the virus.

He says he inadvertently halted the ransomware just hours after hearing news of a cyber attack on the National Health Service while out for lunch with a friend while on a week off from his job at an information security company.

The malware has primarily targeted users of Windows XP, an aging operating system for which Microsoft largely ended support in 2014. While India has been spared so far, experts warn the country is at particular risk because of the large number of XP systems still in use, including in government offices.

Speaking to MailOnline, the anonymous computer security expert revealed that cyber attackers are working to bring down the ''emergency stop'', which is halting the virus from spreading in a bid to infect millions more across the globe.

He said, ''We've actually been getting attacks today, we don't think it's the actual group who were spreading the malware but another group is trying to attack us so the infections resume.''

The computer expert revealed that he has been in touch with the government's National Cyber Security Centre about the fix - and that to say thank you his bosses have given him another week off work, which he plans to spend surfing.

India safe – so far
India's cyber security unit CERT-In today said it has not received any formal report of cyber attack on India's vital networks by the crippling global ransomware.

India is however on high alert, monitoring critical networks across sectors like banking, telecom, power and aviation to ensure that systems are protected against the attack that has claimed victims in more than 150 countries over the weekend.

''Everything seems to be normal, so far. No reports have come to CERT-In. We have been in touch with Microsoft and others ... even they have not got any reports,'' Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), director general Sanjay Bahl told PTI.

He added that the Cyber Swachhta Kendra - the central government's portal on information about cyber security - is being updated on regular basis since Saturday.

'WannaCry' has disrupted networks in over 150 countries, including Russia and the UK and is being termed as one of the most widespread cyber attacks in the history (See: Major cyber-attack hits nearly 100 countries; Asia mostly spared).

Reports suggest that over 200,000 systems globally could have been infected by the malicious software.

Security solutions providers have also accelerated efforts to develop tools to tide over the crisis.

Concerns over India being hit by the ransomware have led to public and private agencies working overtime to firewall their systems from any possible attack.

India is vulnerable as a large number of computers in the country run the Microsoft's older operating systems like XP, and have not been updated yet.

Moreover, with pirated systems almost the norm in the country, high usage of unlicensed software could make the situation worse.

`WannaCry' is infecting computers running the older versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems, locking access to files on the computer. The cyber criminals have demanded a fee of about $300 in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin for unlocking the device.

However, there is no clarity yet on whether access is restored upon payment of the amount demanded.

CERT-In has been on an overdrive advising critical infrastructure agencies including banks, airports, telecom networks and stock markets to take precautions against the ransomware attack by downloading software `patches', PTI reports.

In India, there were reports of some systems of Andhra Pradesh Police being affected on Saturday, although CERT-In has said that the PCs were isolated and not on a network.

CERT-In further said that it sent out advisory to the Reserve Bank of India on the matter on Saturday itself.

''So far we have not received anything. Typically, they (banks) have to report (any disruption) to both RBI and us,'' Bahl added.

Earlier in the day, central transmission utility Power Grid said it has put sufficient firewalls to deal with the global cyber attack and consumers need not fear sudden outages.

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