5 ways to become a smaller target for ransomware hackers

Microsoft says NSA to blame for Wannacry

This one worked because of a "perfect storm" of conditions, including a known and highly risky security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn't apply Microsoft's March software fix, and malware created to spread quickly once inside university, business and government networks.

"The recent attack is at an unprecedented level and will require a complex worldwide investigation to identify the culprits", said a statement issued by Europol, Europe's police agency.

Russia's Interior Ministry released a statement Friday acknowledging a ransomware attack on its computers, adding that less than 1% of computers were affected, and that the virus was now "localized" and being destroyed.

The original attack lost momentum late on Friday after a security researcher took control of a server connected to the outbreak, which crippled a feature that caused the malware to rapidly spread across infected networks.

Over the weekend, the ransomware hit systems in over 100 countries, including Russian Federation and the United Kingdom, in one of the most widespread cyber attacks in history.

Installing the patch is one way to secure computers against the virus.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, said yesterday in a blog post that his company, its customers and the government all share the blame, the report said.

Avast said the majority of the attacks targeted Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Spanish firm Telefonica, French automaker Renault, the USA -based delivery service FedEx and the German railway Deutsche Bahn were among those affected. Experts say it will be hard for them to replicate the conditions that allowed the so-called WannaCry ransomware to proliferate across the globe.

Europol's Wainwright underscored the point Sunday.

"Affected machines have six hours to pay up and every few hours the ransom goes up", said Kurt Baumgartner, the principal security researcher at security firm Kaspersky Lab.

Several organizations around the world including the UK's National Health Service (NHS) were greeted by a message informing them that they had to pay $300 in Bitcoin if they wanted access to their files. Whatever its source, it was published on the internet last month by a hacker group called ShadowBrokers.

The ransomware is spread by taking advantage of a Windows vulnerability that Microsoft released a security patch for in March.

Computer security experts have assured individual computer users who have kept their operating systems updated that they are relatively safe, but urged companies and governments to make sure they apply security patches or upgrade to newer systems.

The attacks exploited the computers because they were running outdated versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system. Machines that contained the patch are much less at risk than those that didn't. "Even without having an antivirus", they said.

Security agencies have so far not been able to identify who was behind the attack.

"We've seen the rise of ransomware becoming the principal threat, I think, but this is something we haven't seen before - the global reach is unprecedented", Wainwright said.

The attack involved ransomware, a kind of malware that encrypts data and locks out the user.

USA package delivery giant FedEx, European vehicle factories, Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, Britain's health service and Germany's Deutsche Bahn rail network were among those hit. "You've got to keep your systems updated".

As its modus operandi, the Wannacry/ WannaCrypt Ransomware drops user manuals in - Chinese, Indonesian, French, Vietnamese, Turkish, Swedish, Finnish, Greek, Danish, Korean, Croatia, Polish. "Most of the reported cases of payment of ransom are from overseas".

Senior U.S. security officials held another meeting in the White House Situation Room on Saturday, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the NSA were working to help mitigate damage and identify the perpetrators of the massive cyber attack, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Renault said it halted manufacturing at plants in France and Romania to prevent the spread of ransomware.

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