Global ‘Ransomware’ Cyberattack Friday

Update, update, update.

Global ‘Ransomware’ Cyberattack

Friday’s attack affected older Microsoft systems.

A global cyberattack hit computers that run factories, banks, government agencies and transport systems iworldwide. The cyberextortion attack was so large that Microsoft changed its policy and made security fixes available for free for the older Windows systems.  Before Friday’s attack, Microsoft made fixes for older systems, such as 2001’s Windows XP, available only to larger organizations that paid extra for extended technical support. Microsoft now will make the fixes free for everyone.

Who perpetrated this wave of attacks remains unknown. Two security firms — Kaspersky Lab and Avast — said they identified the malicious software in more than 70 countries. Both said Russia was hit hardest.

The ransomware exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was purportedly identified by the U.S. National Security Agency for its own intelligence-gathering purposes. The NSA tools were stolen by hackers. The attack appeared to be caused by a self-replicating piece of software that enters companies when employees click on email attachments, then spreads quickly as employees share documents.

The security holes it exploits were disclosed weeks ago by TheShadowBrokers, a mysterious group that published what it said are hacking tools used by the NSA. Microsoft swiftly announced that it had already issued software “patches” to fix those holes, but many users haven’t yet installed updates or still use older versions of Windows.

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