This weekend we saw the most devastating coordinated world-wide attack on hospitals and health institutions that has ever been experienced, in the form of a malicious virus that encrypts the contents of a computer system and then holds its ransom, demanding payment, usually in the form of a Crytocurrency such as Bitcoin. Until such payment is delivered, the user’s computer is locked. In Friday’s attack, NIH Health Clinics and Hospitals all over the UK were struck by the ransomware attack, which then spread out to non-health related industries such as Nissan and Renault. Over 150,000 systems became infected until the attack was thwarted by a 22 year-old British cyber security expert.
The ransomware program, named “WannaCry” exploits a vulnerability in Windows XP, a nearly 20 year old version of Microsoft Windows that is no longer supported by the company. The exploit was originally created by the National Security Agency (NSA) as part of their arsenal of tools used to infiltrate subjects of their surveillance. The exploit, along with a whole treasure trove of software exploits and viruses created by the NSA, was subsequently released by a group of hackers. Once in the wild, this exploit was turned into the ransomware virus attacking computers all over the world.
To read how our intrepid hero has temporarily halted the spread of this malware, read the Telegraph’s article on just how he accomplished it by merely registering a domain name, essentially only spending around 10 pounds of his own money to accomplish the feat.