WannaCry ransomeware attacks, how to prevent it?


Source: Intel.malwaretech.com

WannaCry has spread to Malaysia; two companies here were stricken by the ransomware virus that has infected a massive number of computers across the globe since Friday. Hackers use the virus to hold a victim’s data to ransom – pay up or lose all your information – and the victims overseas include hospital networks, businesses and government agencies.

PETALING JAYA: All governmental agencies have been told of the WannaCry ransomware outbreak and have armoured themselves against attacks.

“All government agencies at federal and state level have been alerted and ensured that their computers have been patched accordingly,” said CyberSecurity CEO Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab.

Dr Amirudin said the WannaCry ransomware exploited vulnerabilities of the Windows operating system, especially on Windows XP which has stopped receiving updates since 2014.

“The malware exploits a flaw in the network protocol called the Server Message Block. Unlike former malware cases which is localised to a single computer, WannaCry exploits the operating system’s vulnerabilities and spreads it across PCs in the network.

“This is why it spread at such speed and range. Realising this, Microsoft came out with the MS17010 patch to stop this particular malware from working and spreading,” he said in a phone interview.

The patch was first rolled out in March this year but was not available to Windows XP, Windows 9 and Windows 2003 until May 12, after WannaCry’s outbreak.

According to the Microsoft Security Response Centre, Windows 10 users were not targeted by the attack.

To protect themselves against any malware attack, computer users were urged to back up their files, avoid clicking on suspicious links online or download attachments in e-mail messages sent by strangers.

“Apart from preventive measures, if you think you have been infected by the malware, please report to us at cyber999@cybersecurity.my or call us at 1300-882999,” he said.

In response to a question, Dr Amirudin said it was not an obligation under the law for anyone to report any security breach.

“It is not mandatory in Malaysia, unlike in some other countries,” he lamented, pointing out that when people made a report to CyberSecurity, their confidentiality would be paramount.

“We can also provide assistance,” Dr Amirudin added.

As of 6pm yesterday, CyberSecurity has yet to receive any report on infected computers in Malaysia.

“It does not mean that infection will not happen. At present, however, the situation is manageable and under control and we are always on the alert,” he said.

When contacted, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and CyberSecurity Malaysia also said they had not received any report of a WannaCry infection in Malaysia.

Ransomware: how hackers take your data hostage

Screens of NHS computers with images demanding payment of US$300 (RM1,302) in Bitcoin (Bitcoin, digital currencies rally, caution prevails; virtual currency in property), saying: “Ooops, your files have been encrypted!”

It demands payment in three days or the price is doubled, and if none is received in seven days the files will be deleted, according to the screen message.

“Ransomware becomes particularly nasty when it infects institutions like hospitals, where it can put people’s lives in danger,” said Kroustek, the Avast analyst.

A hacking group called Shadow Brokers released the malware in April claiming to have discovered the flaw from the NSA, Kaspersky said.

Although Microsoft released a security patch for the flaw earlier this year, many systems have yet to be updated, researchers said.

“Unlike most other attacks, this malware is spreading primarily by direct infection from machine to machine on local networks, rather than purely by email,” said Lance Cottrell, chief scientist at the US technology group Ntrepid.

Some said the attacks highlighted the need for agencies like the NSA to disclose security flaws so they can be patched.

G7 finance ministers meeting in Italy discussed the attacks and were expected to commit to stepping up international cooperation against a growing threat to their economies. — AFP

Massive Ransomware Attack Hits 99 Countries

PHILADELPHIA (CNN)–Tens of thousands of ransomware attacks are targeting organizations around the world on Friday.

Cybersecurity firm Avast said it has tracked more than 75,000 attacks in 99 countries. It said the majority of the attacks targeted Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan.

What is it?

The ransomware locks down all the files on an infected computer and asks the computer’s administrator to pay in order to regain control of them.

The ransomware, called “WannaCry,” is spread by taking advantage of a Windows vulnerability that Microsoft released a security patch for in March. But computers and networks that haven’t updated their systems are at risk. The exploit was leaked last month as part of a trove of NSA spy tools.

“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. “Most folks that have paid up appear to have paid the initial $300 in the first few hours.”

Sixteen National Health Service (NHS) organizations in the UK have been hit, and some of those hospitals have canceled outpatient appointments and told people to avoid emergency departments if possible. Spanish telecom company Telefónica was also hit with the ransomware.

Spanish authorities confirmed the ransomware is spreading through the vulnerability, called “EternalBlue,” and advised people to patch.

“It is going to spread far and wide within the internal systems of organizations — this is turning into the biggest cybersecurity incident I’ve ever seen,” UK-based security architect Kevin Beaumont said.

Russia’s Interior Ministry released a statement acknowledging a ransomware attack on its computers, adding that less than 1% of computers were affected, and that the virus is now “localized.” The statement said antivirus systems are working to destroy it.

Megafon, a Russian telecommunications company, was also hit by the attack. Spokesman Petr Lidov told CNN that it affected call centers but not the company’s networks. He said the situation is now under control.

“We encourage all Americans to update your operating systems and implement vigorous cybersecurity practices at home, work, and school,” the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in a statement released late Friday. “We are actively sharing information related to this event and stand ready to lend technical support and assistance as needed to our partners, both in the United States and internationally.”

Kaspersky Lab says although the WannaCry ransomware can infect computers even without the vulnerability, EternalBlue is “the most significant factor” in the global outbreak.

How to prevent it

Beaumont examined a sample of the ransomware used to target NHS and confirmed it was the same used to target Telefónica. He said companies can apply the patch released in March to all systems to prevent WannaCry infections. Although it won’t do any good for machines that have already been hit.

He said it’s likely the ransomware will spread to U.S. firms too. The ransomware is automatically scanning for computers it can infect whenever it loads itself onto a new machine. It can infect other computers on the same wireless network.

“It has a ‘hunter’ module, which seeks out PCs on internal networks,” Beaumont said. “So, for example, if your laptop is infected and you went to a coffee shop, it would spread to PCs at the coffee shop. From there, to other companies.”

According to Matthew Hickey, founder of the security firm Hacker House, Friday’s attack is not surprising, and it shows many organizations do not apply updates in a timely fashion. When CNNTech first reported the Microsoft vulnerabilities leaked in April, Hickey said they were the “most damaging” he’d seen in several years, and warned that businesses would be most at risk.

Consumers who have up-to-date software are protected from this ransomware. Here’s how to turn automatic updates on.

It’s not the first time hackers have used the leaked NSA tools to infect computers. Soon after the leak, hackers infected thousands of vulnerable machines with a backdoor called DOUBLEPULSAR.

Source: CNN’s Clare Sebastian contributed to this report.

WannaCry strikes two Malaysian companies

PETALING JAYA: Two local companies have been hit by the infamous WannaCry ransomware, three days after the malicious software was released, infecting 200,000 computers in 150 countries so far.

According to IT security services company LGMS, the first case in Malaysia involved a director of one of its clients who came across the dreaded ransomware on his personal laptop on Saturday morning.

LGMS founder C.F. Fong said the data in the laptop had to be erased as the person did not intend to pay the US$300 (RM1,300) ransom.

The same ransomware appeared in the machine of an automotive shop on Sunday morning.

“The company didn’t have any backup and might pay (the ransom),” said Fong.

Besides disconnecting compu­ters from the network, there was not much else they could do, he noted.

As of 3pm yesterday, a website tracking incidences of WannaCry infections started showing blips in the Klang Valley area.

The website displays a blip whenever an infected computer pings its tracking servers, thus allowing it to map out a geographical distribution of the WannaCry infection.

Fong added that any machine infected by WannaCry should not be connected to a public or cor­­porate network.

“Once you plug into any network, it will start spreading,” he pointed out.

Fong said none of LGMS’ clients, which include major banks in Malaysia, had reported any pro­blems so far, adding that he was quite confident that those who re­gularly updated their computers would not face any problems with WannaCry.

He said ransomware was not new but WannaCry had caused worldwide alarm because of how fast it was spreading.

“We have seen worse and devastating ransomware attacks before but WannaCry’s infection rate is one of the fastest ever as it exploits the vulnerability that exists in Windows,” Fong said.

Security companies all over the world are reporting an unprecedented wave of WannaCry ransomware infections since Friday when more than 150 countries were hit by it.

The ransomware encrypts the data on an infected computer, preventing users from accessing it.

According to a report in The Guardian, the ransomware uses a vulnerability first revealed as part of a leaked stash of NSA-related documents, which infects machines running Windows and encrypts their contents before demanding a ransom to decrypt these files.

The perpetrators promise to release the data once a ransom of US$300 (RM1,300) is paid.

In just two days, computer networks of Britain’s National Health Service, Russia’s interior ministry and international shipper FedEx, among others, were affected.

The website tracking incidences of WannaCry infections was created by a 22-year-old British re­sear­cher known only as MalwareTech, who was credited with being an “accidental hero” after discovering a “kill switch” that halted WannaCry’s outbreak.

Cyber security expert: WannaCry ransomware has … – The Star Online

Malaysia also hit by WannaCry ransomware – Nation

Singapore not affected by cyber attacks

How to Remove Ransomware. – Ransomware Removal Instruction

Police raid CYL office, seize items

Bitcoin, digital currencies rally, caution prevails; virtual currency in property


Bitcoins As Digital Currency's Rally Crushed Every Other Currency in 2016
A collection of bitcoin tokens. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Digital currencies rally, but caution prevails

While investing in the future is the way to go, it comes with risks and rewards. The best strategy would be to not be in a rush. Do your homework.

THIS week, the rally in crypto currencies is at its all-time high.

Bitcoin, the pioneer in digital currency, surged to over US$1,700 per coin in
anticipation of a reversal in United States financial regulators’ ruling to allow for an exchange-traded fund for Bitcoin and other factors.

Bitcoin was trading at US$935 on March 24. It rose 82%, pushing its market capitalisation to over US$28bil.

Ether, another such currency, surged from US$8 on Jan 1 to US$90 this week, gaining 1,125% in five months.

The market capitalisation of the 700-over currencies is over US$50bil. The promoters believe it is the currency of the future, hence the rise, but the naysayers believe it is entering a speculative bubble.

But there are some who are ditching gold to mine Bitcoins.

It is a fact that crypto currencies are gaining traction from their inception in 2009. Now, at least 150 organisations including Apple, Walmart, Sears, eBay, Overstock.com,  Microsoft, Steam, Expedia and even Subway accept them in exchange for goods.

So, what is Bitcoin then?

It is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically, not blocked by any nation or government, not printed like dollars and ringgit but produced by people. Crypto currencies are digital currencies that use encryption to secure transactions and control how new coins are made.

You and I can get Bitcoins by “mining” computers that validate blocks of transactions using software to solve mathematical puzzles every 10 minutes. If you solve it first, you are rewarded with new Bitcoins.

Bitcoin is the mother of all crypto currencies – also known as virtual currencies, digital currencies and private currencies.

Other than Bitcoin and Ether, there is also Dogecoin, Augur, Chinacoin, Litecon, Dash, Waves and Zcash. There are over 40 exchanges globally to trade in Bitcoins.

All this came about because of fintech, the financial services technology that is  disrupting the financial services sector with faster, cheaper and so-called “reliable”
transactions for money transfers, bank exchange rates and other money-related transactions. The average clearance is a 12-hour period, which apparently the banks cannot match.

In Brazil, people use Zcash to pay for their taxes, electricity bills and purchases.

This week, Australia said there would be no double taxation for crypto currencies and to treat it just like other currencies from July 1, paving the way for greater usage.

Many are betting on crypto currencies because of the lure that they are the currency of the future. Would you?

Since 2009, there have been gainers and losers, so you decide.

All these digital currencies came about because of the Internet and data.  The value of data and digital services is becoming more apparent, and in the digital era, data is the new currency.

Amid all this is blockchain, which is simply a digital ledger that keeps track of Bitcoin transactions and transfers it globally. It boasts of instantaneous transactions, transparent and cheaper than the traditional ways. This is why banks are hurriedly getting their acts together in the area of fintech so as to not miss the boat.

There is a growing number of mergers and acquisitions and crowdfunding for blockchains. Last month, music-podcast-video streaming service Spotify  bought over blockchain technology company Mediachain Labs to help reward  online content owners with royalty payments.

Other telcos and IT firms are getting into blockchain because they don’t want to miss out on anything. Other payment companies are getting into the act too. There is just too much interest in this new wave of doing things.

The journey of crypto currencies, however, is not without hurdles, and there are plenty out there that cannot be ignored. Even blockchain’s growth cannot be ignored, especially since it is being positioned by those championing it as the de facto technology of the future.

But will it really be all that or will it just add another layer to the overall cost?

All these transfers do not need regulation as yet, something that central bankers don’t like. In fact, Bank Negara is already in the thick of things where fintech is concerned.

While investing in the future is the way to go, it comes with risks and rewards. The best
strategy would be to not be in a rush. Do your homework, as there is also the other side of Bitcoin – fake websites, fake online gaming sites, trading, etc.

I bet you would know of someone who has lost money mining Bitcoin or Ether. You honestly wouldn’t want to be put in a spot like those caught up in the recent forex scam and the earlier gold scam.

It would be good too to bear in mind that the sweet spot of crypto currencies has been linked to terrorism financing, money laundering, tax evasion and fraud.

Trust and transparency have been the bedrock of financial institutions all these years. Ensure your bedrock is solid, but at the same time, remember what the former US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke had said in a letter to US senators about virtual currencies, that they “may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure, and more efficient payment system”.

Do you think blockchain will bring trust and transparency to the world of crypto currency? Share your thoughts with me at bksidhu@thestar

Source: The Star by b.k. sidhu

Related Stories

Bitcoin presents a new set of risks to investors given its limited adoption and a number of massive cybersecurity breaches affecting bitcoin owners, among others. The Reuters photo shows a bitcoin sticker on the window of a convenience store in Los Angeles. US regulators to review decision blocking Bitcoin ETF’s listing

China central bank holds meeting with bitcoin exchanges

Trading plunges at China’s bitcoin exchanges

Property in a digital era

WITH digital technology all the rage and taking the world by storm, we look at how science and automation has managed to change and revolutionise the way we do things, in this section, property.

While the internet has changed the way we receive information and connect with others and the smart phone transformed the whole concept of a phone, we now look at the evolution of finance and how purchasing items, including a house, is going through reform with the introduction of bitcoin.

Introducing bitcoin

When people hear terms like “bitcoin” and “blockchain”, many are vague while some may not even be familiar with these words. But for the technology industry adept, bitcoin and blockchain is common as these new-age technology concepts and modus operandi have been around, perhaps less widely known in Southeast Asia as it is in the West and China.

For the uninformed and in the dark, bitcoin is a technology that has established a new electronic payment method using “digitised money” made with digital cryptography, otherwise known as cryptocurrency.

This system of payment is carried out when a user uses “bitcoin currency” (or cryptocurrency) to pay for goods by transferring the currency to another user (seller) within the bitcoin community.

Each transaction is recorded in a public data ledger known as “blockchain” and it is here where all the transactions that have taken place within the bitcoin community are stored.

The amazing thing about this system is that anyone in the bitcoin community is able to validate transactions that take place without the need of an intermediary.

Sound too good to be true and a little risky? Well, the reason there is no intermediate party necessary is due to the network bitcoin technology is regulated on.


Modus operandi and more

The bitcoin network is founded on a “peer-to-peer network system (P2P network)” which is explained as “a network of computers/ mobile configured to allow certain files and folders to be shared with everyone or with selected users”.

As a result, the “participants” are in control of their transactions, making everyone equal within the bitcoin community, which is also transparent.

It is said that bitcoin technology was first created in 2008 by a person or a group of persons under the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto” in a research paper. The research stated that there was need for a new electronic payment method, one using digitised money. The analysis also included the future of bitcoin, its benefits, capabilities and potential.

The system was implemented on Jan 3, 2009. And after just a few years, bitcoin grew to become a whopping US$12 billion (RM52.7 billion) globalised economy.

Bitcoin attributes

While not much has been said about bitcoin in this part of the region, the system has been around, slowly developing and growing. Like many things that are cloudy and not often talked about, people are weary hence, there will be sceptics who dissuade others about the system they themselves are unclear about.

With that, theSun’s Brian Chung shares what he learnt of this new method of transaction and currency when he attended a talk by renowned entrepreneur, author and expert on bitcoin Andreas M. Antonopoulos.

Below, Antonopolous shares important information on bitcoin.

1) Bitcoin is an open system of payment: It is a system that anyone can access, participate and innovate, and does not require permission. Bitcoin allows anyone to join in and use the system, validate the transaction and create different kinds of cryptocurrency.

2) Bitcoin is borderless: Like the internet, bitcoin is not restricted to a country’s rules and regulations as it has its own protocol with no distinction across countries.

3) Bitcoin is neutral: Bitcoin does not take the identity of the participant into any consideration. It only validates the transaction that takes place between participants. This attribute also allows participants to remain anonymous.

4) Bitcoin is censorship resistant: Every transaction in the bitcoin network cannot be frozen, censored or canceled. Like the internet, the bitcoin system is a global digital economy with one currency.

5) Bitcoin is a decentralised system: The bitcoin network has no central institution or centre point of control. This trait ensures that there is no one major target for hackers to concentrate their attacks on. Instead, hackers have to create attacks on every single participant’s software with different forms of virus and codes to hack into one computer.

6) Bitcoin is scarce and limited: Bitcoin is a system of value like gold but in digital form. This makes it a system that is not based on credit and debit. It also makes bitcoin a singular global currency with no exchange rate between countries.

7) Every bitcoin transaction is permanent and immutable: The transaction of everyone in the community is verified by everyone in the system. Once it is verified, the transaction will be permanently recorded in the blockchain.

8) Bitcoin is a constantly innovative technology: The open source nature of the bitcoin technology allows other people to further improve on it. There are many other cryptocurrencies based on the bitcoin technology. Moreover, the bitcoin technology is dependent on the internet, which makes improvement and innovation necessary.

Bitcoin transactions can be done via smart phones and computers by downloading the application and software. Users do not need to register themselves to be part of the bitcoin network as all “participants” are referred to by codes and “signature of one’s device”.

However, iPhone users need to remember their iTunes password to download the application. In addition, the device that one has downloaded the bitcoin software on must remain connected to the internet in order for one to use the bitcoin method of payment.

Follow our column next week on the application of bitcoin in property.

[Note: All charts courtesy of Bitcoin Malaysia.]

 

The application of bitcoin in property

 

WHILE last week, we introduced the term bitcoin to those oblivious of this new age cryptocurrency and system of payment, this week, we share bitcoin whiz Andreas M. Antonopoulus’ insights on how this technology is applied in property. Here is what he had to say:

Permanent records

“One very common application is the registration of assets or ownership of tangible and
non-tangible things like the registration of title over land and the ownership of assets
like homes.

When you record something on blockchain, it cannot be modified … it is immutable. Once recorded on the blockchain, the system of trust prevents anyone from reversing or overwriting it. That makes a record on blockchain permanent, an immutable record which is really important in real estate transaction as it allows one to pass the title of a piece of land from person to person independently with no one being able to falsify the record or steal land through paper,” Antonopoulos said.

Moreover, he mentioned that this technology can benefit the industry tremendously as it is able to resolve a huge problem in real estate and property transactions – the falsification of strata titles and property documents.

His view is further enhanced with the emergence of another bitcoin-based system, ethereum. Like bitcoin, ethereum has its own cryptocurrency known as ether. However, ethereum adopts a different technology that is based on the blockchain public ledger system known as Smart Contract.

According to Antonopoulos, a smart contract is an electronic contract with all the contractual obligations of the buyer and seller. The contract is written and coded into an application, which will ensure both parties fulfill their obligations.

Like blockchain technology that is built on trust and verification, these contracts are encoded in a public ledger in the ethereum community. If anyone tries to forge the contract, the ledger will reject it. As such, this smart contract cannot be rewritten and altered as it is a permanent and immutable contract.


Direct transactions

Besides the use of a contract, the technology will make transactions direct, fast and secure.

Antonopoulos also shared about the removal of third parties and its altered role. He said, “Another example relevant to real estate application is the function of escrow. In order to do make transactions for real estate today, people have to use a third party agent, an escrow agent. This escrow agent charges a significant amount of money in most countries. During the process, that agent holds custody of the entire fund, which is dangerous. This means that the escrow agent has to be carefully vetted and have foresight.

Bitcoin can replace all of this by using multi-signature, which allows the seller and buyer to transact escrow programmatically, with the third party acting as mediator only in the case of a dispute.

Buyer and seller will be able to execute a transaction on their own without the need of an escrow agent and without any of the parties having custody of the entire fund. Through bitcoin, you do not need to spend that additional one percent of the sale of the house – the escrow agent is no longer necessary.

It can also change the speed of escrow by doing it in hours instead of a month and changes the security because no one of the three parties can run away with the money. It is faster, cheaper and secure. It can be done in other industries related to real estates like purchasing assets, corporation, mergers and acquisitions.

International property purchase

With the use of decentralised digital currency, one can assume that purchasing items and properties is a little easier, and it is.

The chance of purchasing international property is further reinforced by the fact that bitcoin is not controlled by anyone, not even political and banking institutions. This attribute of bitcoin makes it easier for people buying property from another country. Although each country has its regulations, the use of bitcoin to purchase property abroad saves time and money as one does not need to change currency.

The Australia Real Estate website has stated that there are properties in the United States and Latin America being sold using bitcoin. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article in 2014 regarding a Lake Tahoe property, which was sold for US$1 million in bitcoin.

Follow our column next week for more interesting information on bitcoin, its challenges and how stable a cryptocurrency it is.

By rian Chung

Related articles:

%d bloggers like this: