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‘WannaCry’ Virus Spreads Rapidly and Evolves Quickly

Zoe Kavaney, Reporter

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A mistake in a new Microsoft update might cause serious damage to millions of home, business and government computers.

 

Kevin Beaumont, a cybersecurity professional from the United Kingdom, told CNN that “this is the biggest cybersecurity incident I’ve ever seen.”

 

It’s referred to as WannaCry, and it fits under the ‘ransomware’ category. The virus makes its way into a personal computer, freezes all of the victim’s files and then demands a payment of $300 in bitcoin. The ransom goes up every few hours. If the demand isn’t met within 6 hours, the computer is permanently frozen. If the victims manage to pay the fee, then they will be sent a code to get rid of the virus.

 

It first showed up on May 12. It’s spreading extremely quickly and showing up across the globe. According to the Los Angeles Times, more than 200,000 people have been impacted by the virus, and it’s been reported in upwards of 150 countries. Europol said the virus has reached an “unprecedented level” and that in order to incarcerate the people responsible, a “complex international investigation” will be necessary.

 

Matthew Hickey, creator of the security organization Hacker House, says that the severity of this attack isn’t surprising, due to so many companies not updating their systems regularly.

 

New versions of WannaCry are popping up all over the world, making work toward stopping it even more difficult and sluggish.

 

Nobody is really sure who the culprits are or what country they’re located in. In an interview with ITV, Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, remarked that it’s most likely that a group of people is responsible for the attack. In order for the threat to be stopped as quickly and efficiently as possible, it’s necessary that there’s an “international investigation” and that people across the world communicate about issues as much as possible.

 

The National Security Agency (NSA) originally found the mistake and waited before telling Microsoft about it, putting it into their stockpile instead. There was a security leak, and the public came into knowledge of the bug. The bug was published online and was viewed by a large amount of people across the globe.

 

The president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, Brad Smith, has compared the severity of this situation to Tomahawk missiles being stolen from the United States military.

 

He posted online about the situation, saying that this attack really highlights why “stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is a problem,” referring to the security breach as a “wake-up call.” He went on to talk about why it’s important that the government shares information about potential emergencies as soon as possible.

 

He thinks that cybersecurity is just as important as real-world security and should not be treated lightly. He also said that governments “need to consider the damage to civilians” when stockpiling data.

 

Smith also noted that the WannaCry virus needs to act as an “important lesson” about safety precautions taken against viruses.

 

Microsoft held a meeting on this subject in February, referring to it as a “Digital Geneva Convention.” In it, they criticized the irresponsible behavior of world governments when it comes to electronic intelligence. Many governments use computer viruses as tools for surveillance and don’t consider the very real danger of them falling into the wrong hands.

 

According to Smith, Microsoft has around 3,500 specialists on hacking trained for a crisis just like this one. He made a post on the Microsoft website saying that solving this issue is their “immediate priority.”

 

Computers running on older versions of Windows are the worst hit, such as the ones owned by Spain’s Telefonica, America’s FedEx, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and France’s Renault. About 100,000 organizations have been attacked by the virus.

 

Countless more companies have been affected, as well as government run operations (like Britain’s National Health Service and Russia’s Interior Ministry) and home computers owned by ordinary people.

 

A few anonymous university students in China have claimed to be victims, reporting that the ransom note sent to them was in multiple languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English.

 

In an interview with Associated Press, Jan Op Gen Oorth (a spokesman for Europol),  said that not a lot of people have been able to pay the ransom.

 

James R. Clapper, the former United States national intelligence director, called this incident “a very serious problem” while visiting on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, a news program run by ABC. He also predicts that attacks similar to this one will most likely happen more in the future, so it’s important to prepare for them.

 

Microsoft warned the public that it was important to update their computers before May 15 in order to guard against the threat. The best way to prevent your PC getting infected is by turning on automatic updates.

 

Smith wrote that as “cybercriminals become more sophisticated” it’s important that everyday consumers take the necessary steps to safeguard their computers. He also thinks that people needs to recognize the importance of “urgent collective action” against security threats.

 

Becky Pinkard, an employee for Digital Shadows (a cybersecurity company located in the United Kingdom), told BBC that it’s likely a new form of the virus will show up on Monday. She went on to say that if not, “we should expect one soon afterwards.”

 

If you think that your computer has a virus, Margaret Motzel says that it’s important to get help from a “specialist” and “change important passwords, like for bank accounts and Google.”

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The student news site of Harding High School
‘WannaCry’ Virus Spreads Rapidly and Evolves Quickly