WannaCrypt Ransomware Windows Patch: Microsoft Tells Government To Stop Hoarding Security Vulnerabilities

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Renault-Nissan said output had returned to normal at almost all its plants.

"Intelligence agencies will always be developing zero-days, but unlike traditional weapons, these tools can be repurposed quickly from devastating criminal attacks", said Bambenek in an email statement.

Lieu, who noted on his Web site that he is "one of only four computer science majors serving in Congress", supports changing the vulnerabilities equities process (VEP) to ensure greater transparency in how the federal government notifies software companies about bugs it identifies. "They did report the vulnerability to Microsoft when it became a risk". Smith's post wasn't fair, argued a source with experience at U.S. Cyber Command, an offensive-minded cyber warfare unit commanded by the director of the NSA.

The virus has locked people and companies out of their computers, leaving payment of $300 ransom as the only option to get back the access. The WannaCry software infected computers operating on Microsoft and displayed messages demanding users to pay $300 in bitcoin - type of digital currency widely used online. The first piece of malware that demanded payment was written in 1989.

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It comes after more than 200,000 victims in around 150 countries were infected by ransomware that originated in the United Kingdom and Spain before spreading around the world. That tool was stolen and made available by the Shadow Brokers, a hacking group that has released several caches of files from the government agency.

The virus hit computers running older versions of Microsoft Corp software that had not been recently updated.

Previous attacks targeted individuals and a few businesses, while this one is a widespread ransomware attack that has hit businesses globally.

"The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call", Smith said. "This attack provides yet another example of why the stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem", said Smith.

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Therein lies the uncomfortable irony for Microsoft.

Microsoft ended support for Windows XP in April 2014, which meant the company stopped providing any security updates or technical support for the OS since then. Despite the situation, Microsoft brand is likely to emerge without serious damage according to an expert at the tech industry.

The ransomware culprit, WannaCry, spreads via a computer virus known as a "worm". And, while the company did issue early fixes for its newer operating systems, patches for older Windows systems were only issued free of charge over the weekend, after the attacks began. Organizations are being warned to upgrade to newer systems for safety.

Once again, it appears hospital systems have escaped the true nightmare scenario - wide scale injuries or deaths resulting from misbehaving technology.

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"NSA should be embarrassed - they've had a lot of damaging leaks", said James Lewis, a former US official who is now a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Those include a known and highly risky security hole in Microsoft Windows, tardy users who didn't apply Microsoft's March software fix, and malware created to spread quickly once inside university, business and government networks.

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