A ransomware attack is spreading worldwide, using alleged NSA exploit

UK's National Health Service was among the organizations hit by the Wanna Decryptor ransomware on Friday

A ransomware attack appears to be spreading around the world, leveraging a hacking tool that may have come from the U.S. National Security Agency.

The ransomware, called Wanna Decryptor, struck hospitals at the U.K.’s National Health Service on Friday, taking down some of their network.

Spain’s computer response team CCN-CERT has also warned of a "massive attack" from the ransomware strain, amid reports that local telecommunications firm Telefonica was hit.

The ransomware, also known as WannaCry, works by leveraging a Windows vulnerability that came to light last month when a cache of mysterious hacking tools was leaked on the internet.

The tools, which security researchers suspect came from the NSA, include an exploit codenamed EternalBlue that makes hijacking older Windows systems easy. It specifically targets the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol in Windows, which is used for file-sharing purposes.

Microsoft has already patched the vulnerability, but only for newer Windows systems. Older ones, such as Windows Server 2003, are no longer supported, but still widely used among businesses, according to security experts.

That may have painted a giant bulls-eye for hackers to target these systems. The developer of Wanna Decryptor appears to have added the suspected NSA hacking tools to the ransomware’s code, said Matthew Hickey, the director of security provider Hacker House, in an email.

Security firm Avast said it has detected the ransomware, largely attacking Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan.

Another security research firm, MalwareTech, has created a page monitoring the attacks. They appear to have gone worldwide.

The Wanna Decryptor ransomware strikes by encrypting all the files on an infected PC, along with any other systems on the network the PC is attached to. It then demands a ransom of about $300 to $600 in bitcoin to release the files, threatening to delete them after a set period of days if the amount is not paid.

Security experts are urging organizations to patch vulnerable systems, upgrading to the latest versions of OSes, and making backups of any critical files.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?