Ransomware: Cyber Extortionists Unleash Attack on Computers Worldwide

A malware called ransomware, encrypted data on computers and demanded payments of $300 to $600 to restore access.

New Delhi: Making use of stolen software, hackers carried out cyber attacks that hit dozens of countries worldwide. According to a report, software stolen from the National Security Agency was used to disable thousands of computers worldwide.

It is assumed that these hackers managed to trick victims into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that appeared to contain legitimate files.

A malware called ransomware encrypted data on computers, and demanded payments of $300 to $600 to restore access.

According to security researchers, many victims paid to these cyber extortionists. The researchers at a popular security software builder observed around 57,000 infections in 99 countries, with Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan as top targets.

Spain, Portugal, Argentina were also targeted. But Britain is the most affected of all. With no computer access, the hospitals and clinics were said to have forced to turn away patients.

However, US-headquartered organizations were the least hit. This could be because the hackers began targeting European organizations first, said a research manager. By the time the cyber extortionists turned their attention to the United States, spam filters identified the new threat and flagged the ransomware-laden emails as malicious, he added.

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday night said that it was aware of reports of the ransomware, and that it was sharing information with domestic and foreign partners and was prepared to lend technical support.

Private security firms identified the ransomware as a new variant of “WannaCry.” It has the ability to automatically spread across large networks by exploiting a known bug in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

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Ransomware Hits In A New Form, Cripples Europe

Even before the world has completely recovered from the damage caused by WannaCry, the ransomware has hit the cyber world again in the form of Petya.
Ransomware Hits In A New Form, Cripples Europe

A highly virulent attack by the malicious data-scrambling software- Ransomware- has crippled European countries in a big way on Tuesday night. It spreads across the world, hitting governmental networks and cyber firms. Cyber security departments have swung into action immediately but nothing substantial could be done even beyond 1 a.m.

The attack was first reported from Ukraine when the officials have reported “serious intrusions of the country’s power grid as well as at banks and government offices”. A senior executive has even posted a photo of a darkened computer screen and the words, “the whole network is down.” The Ukrainian prime minister however said that the country’s “vital systems” hadn’t been affected.

Several countries have followed. Russia’s Rosneft oil company,Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk and US drug maker Merck have issued statements that their networks have been compromised. The number of firms have slowly increased and by 11 pm, more than 140 networks have been forced to shut down.

By midnight, the attack spread to all major countries and it became a worldwide crisis.

“A massive ransomware campaign is currently unfolding worldwide,” said Romanian cyber security company Bitdefender, where analyst Bogdan Botezatu said that it appeared to be nearly identical to GoldenEye, one of a family of hostage-taking programs that has been circulating for months. Some analysts were calling the new form of ransomware Petya.

It’s not clear whether or why the ransomware has suddenly become so much more potent, but Botezatu said that it was likely spreading automatically across a network, without the need for human interaction. Such self-spreading software, often called “worms,” are particularly feared because they can replicate rapidly, like a contagious disease.

The world is still recovering from a previous outbreak of ransomware, called WannaCry or WannaCrypt.

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TTD Systems Attacked By Ransomware

WannaCry ransomware has not spared even Tirumala. Nearly 30 computers of TTD were attacked by the virus, though no damage was reported.

Tirumala: Even God could not protect his computers from WannaCry ransomware! According to reports, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam’s (TTD) computers were hit. TTD is the governing body of the richest temple in India.

It was reported that nearly 30 computer systems were affected by the virus.

The governing body, however, said that its main portal and website were not breached.

The systems that were affected were suspected to be using a pirated version of Windows XP operating system said a leading daily.  It also reported that the TTD officials were confident that no critical data was lost and no great damage was done.

An emergency meeting was held by newly appointed TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal after the hack. Later he told the media that precautionary measures were being taken to prevent further attack.

According to another leading daily, TTD had about 2,000 computers, of which 500 systems were used for booking for devotees.

Officials said that they have loaded patches released by Microsoft for further protection of all the systems.

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Ransomware: Hackers Also Inflict Damage to AP Police Computers

The Andhra Pradesh police department was also affected in the cyber attacks conducted worldwide by extortionists.

Amaravati: As part of global cyber-attacks, a section of computers of Andhra Pradesh police department was also affected, authorities claimed.

Computers in Chittoor, Krishna, Guntur, Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts were affected. As the attacks were detected only in 18 police units, the routine functioning was not hampered, said the officials.

Though some standalone computers were affected, they were logged off as a precautionary measure, said Police Director General Sambasiva Rao.

Rao told that those systems using the windows operating system were hit by the attack. He said that his computer with Mac operating system was safe.

A global cyber-attack using hacking tools stolen from the US National Security Agency (NSA) has infected tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 countries.

“The impact is minimal as we also keep an offline record of FIRs and other documents,” said Jaya Lakshmi, Superintendent of Police at Tirupati Urban.

Speaking to the media, Lakshmi said that the ‘ransomware,’ a malware used by the hackers, encrypted data in some police stations.

Lakshmi said they were not able to access data and hackers were demanding ransom in digital currency bit coin to restore access. She said that since the data was also stored in different offices in the police administration, they would be able to retrieve the data.

Another officer said they were coordinating with the home ministry and were taking all precautions to protect the data.

Telangana police said its computer systems were not affected.

“The Telangana State Police website is functioning perfectly. There is no need to panic”, said Krishna Prasad, Telangana technical computer services in-charge.

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