RANSOMWARE: Govts, businesses disrupted; Hundreds of thousands Chinese PCs hit –
LONDON: The world’s biggest ransomware attack levelled off on Monday after wreaking havoc in 150 countries, as Russian President Vladimir Putin called it payback for the US intelligence services.
Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer Brad Smith has said the US National Security Agency developed the original code used in the attack, which was later leaked in a document dump.
“Microsoft’s leadership stated this directly, they said the source of the virus was the special services of the United States,” Putin said on the sidelines of a summit in Beijing.
“A genie let out of a bottle of this kind, especially created by secret services, can then cause damage to its authors and creators,” Putin said.
Russia has been accused of cyber meddling in several countries around the world in recent years.
But Putin said they had anything to do with the attack, which hit hundreds of thousands of computers. “A protection system… needs to be worked out,” he said. Smith earlier said he hoped the attacks would serve as “a wake-up call”.
He warned governments against stockpiling code that could be used in this way left it fall into the wrong hands and said instead they should point out the vulnerabilities to manufacturers.
“An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen,” Smith wrote. There had been concern that Monday could see an upsurge in attacks at the start of the working week but fears eased as the number of incidents reported levelled off.
The cross-border police agency Europol said the situation was now “stable”, defusing concerns that attacks that struck computers in British hospital wards, European car factories and Russian banks would spread further at the start of the working week.
“The number of victims appears not to have gone up and so far the situation seems stable in Europe, which is a success,” senior spokesman for Europol, Jan Op Gen Oorth, said.
“It seems that a lot of Internet security guys over the weekend did their homework and ran the security software updates,” he said.
The indiscriminate attack was unleashed on Friday, striking hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide by exploiting known vulnerabilities in older Microsoft operating systems.
In China, “hundreds of thousands” of computers were affected, including petrol stations, cash machines and universities, according to Qihoo 360, one of China’s largest providers of antivirus software.