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Ransomware outbreak prompts Microsoft to update old software

19 May 2017

The government has been criticised for cutting IT support for the health service and failing to replace old computer systems.

Security agencies have so far not been able to identify who was behind the attack.

We know that Windows update notifications get in the way of our work, which is why many users disable it on their system.

The only real security from ransomware is backups and solid security best practices.

A global network of cyber-security experts are urging companies and organizations to update older Microsoft operating systems immediately to ensure they don't fall prey to a more powerful and future versions of the ransomware. Software manufacturers often provide updates or patches to their products after they discover such a flaw, to prevent cyber-criminals from exploiting it.

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But then, the patches won't do any good for machines that have already been hit.

However, the biggest issue is the rampant use of pirated windows software, which will in-fact result in no patch maintenance, which further means, more havoc in the country.

This year in January another ransomware by the name of Lazarus had attacked Indian companies. Reports suggest that over two lakh systems globally could have been infected by the malicious software. For many victims, finding and paying in Bitcoin is a task that is beyond them.

According to Microsoft, computers affected by the so-called "ransomware" did not have security patches for various Windows versions installed or were running Windows XP, which the company no longer supports. Some of these computers were used by Iranian hospitals.

However, WannaCry didn't just affect the public sector.

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More than 200,000 computers across 150 countries have been affected by a large-scale cyberattack in the past few days. Even the central bank has lamented about the poor reporting of cyber attacks.

Although the NHS is clearly under tight financial constraints, governments have significant resources to mitigate cyber-threats and can raise large amounts of money if politicians choose to do so. A good place to do this is on an external hard drive that isn't connected to the internet.

Many countries are racing to create more cyber weapons.

"Whether or not you think the USA government should be spending a fortune developing such cyber-weapons, surely it is obvious that the weapons they develop should be properly secured", said Phillip Hallam-Baker, principal scientist for New Jersey-based cybersecurity firm Comodo, in an emailed statement. Getting people to understand how is still a serious challenge. However, the outdated software of ATMs was least affected.

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