Europol: Global Cyber Attack “Beyond Anything” Ever Seen

In comments to Sky News in the UK, Steven Wilson of Europol’s Cybercrime Centre said the “ransomware” attack that was still infecting thousands of new computers by Monday was “beyond anything we have seen before.” While insisting that the attack was not “massively sophisticated,” Wilson said it was nonetheless unprecedented in both its scope and its effectiveness.

“What is new,” he said, “is the use of a worm to propagate through systems.”

The attack, which started Friday, is being called the most expansive online extortion threat of all time. As of Monday, the virus was believed to have spread to more than 100,000 organizations around the world. That number was expected to grow exponentially as people returned to work this week and logged onto their computers for the first time since the attack began. Hospitals, transportation systems, government agencies, and personal computers in more than 150 countries have been infected thus far. According to the BBC, some $38,000 has already been paid to the extortionists, who will not unlock the victim’s computer until they have received their $300 Bitcoin ransom.

This weekend, President Trump ordered Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert to meet with top intelligence officials to asses the scope of the domestic threat and to begin coordinating a U.S. investigation into the attack. So far, neither officials in the U.S. or Europe have determined who was behind the attack, but they do know one thing: Which organization developed the virus. They know, of course, because it was none other than the National Security Agency. Details of this particular attack were published two months ago after NSA cyber-security programs were leaked.

In a statement, Microsoft President Brad Smith criticized the NSA for the leak, likening it to “the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen” right out from under them. Smith said the cyberattack – known as WannaCry – should wake up government officials to the dangers of stockpiling such exploits for use in digital warfare.

“This is an emerging pattern in 2017,” Smith said in a blog post. “We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world. Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage.”

The problems, as security experts see it, are three. One, not enough computer users and organizations are updating Windows frequently enough; the patch for this particular exploit was released more than a month ago. Two, our security agencies are playing with dangerous cyber attack software without fully devoting the resources necessary to keep this software under lock and key. Three, it is once again clear that we have a “leak” problem in our federal government, and that problem isn’t limited to administration officials running to The New York Times.

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