How does WannaCry affect India?

Oct 24, 2017 by infocon in  cyber security Security

In emerging economies like India where the government is undertaking large scale digital initiatives and schemes, security has become a major concern. Cyber experts believe that the damage done by WannaCry ransomware is an issue of under-reported magnitude.

The use of pirated and outdated software is rampant among Indian users as well mid-size and small IT organizations. Fearing licensing issues, a huge number of these incidents will not be reporting the losses, concludes expert opinion on the latest cyber attack.

According to the Centre’s instruction to CERT-IN (Computer Emergency Response Team), “all the information of reported ransomware” have been collected into a report. Many of the cases across the country were isolated but the wave of attacks certainly shows that the impact to India is certainly a caution alarm.

The report states these places as worst hit by WannaCry:

1. 10% of Vadodara’s total computers in the District Administration Collectorate Office.

2.  Computers in Panchayat offices of Wayanad and Pathanamthitta districts in Kerala.

3.  120 computers connected with Gujarat State Wide Area Network in Gujarat.

4.  18 systems of Andhra Pradesh Police Department.

5.  Systems in the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) Shrine in Andhra Pradesh.

6.  Computers of the Personnel Department of the Southern Railways’ Palakkad Division.

7.  Computers in several locations of the Police Department of Maharashtra.

8.  Many attacks happened in computers across Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

 

Why ‘WannaCry’ must be a lesson for all

Oct 24, 2017

May 12, 2017 is one of the most dreadful days of the year for cyber experts and its stakeholders. About 150 countries across the globe suffered a cyber-attack, affecting 200,000 computers.

It was the infamous “WannaCry” ransomware in which hackers locked people out of their computers, demanding a ransom of $300 in bitcoins. Medical care became inaccessible and factories were shut down for more than 2 days to minimize loss of confidential and further damage.

Here goes a brief on one of the most dangerous ransomware attacks in the Cyber-verse:

What is “WannaCry”?

“WannaCry” appears to have utilized a flaw in Microsoft’s software, discovered by the National Security Agency, which was quickly leaked by hackers. The malicious code that relied on the victims opening a zip file emailed to them, spread rapidly across networks locking away files one by one. From then on, the programme used Microsoft’s flaw to thrive.

Microsoft had released a security update which addressed the vulnerability in the sixteen year old Windows XP operating system, in March 2017. This update was exploited by the hackers to trigger the massive ransomware attack.

 

 

Who got affected?

Several computer networks worldwide were affected, including Telefonica as well as other major organizations in Spain. The British National Health Service (NHS), too, was forced to cancel scheduled patients.

FedEx, Deutsche Bahn, the Russian Interior  Ministry and Russian telecom MegaFon were barred from normal operating services. According to Quartz the three bitcoin wallets used in the attack received just under 300 payments totalling a sum of 48.8635565 bitcoins, which is the equivalent of about $101,000.

 

What is a ransomware attack?

The term ‘ransomware’ appeared in 2005 in the US with the first notable biggest threats to security. While cyber experts maintain it to be 2005, the history of ransomware goes back to 1989.

 

PC CYBORG advisory from 1989. Screenshot via Security Focus

 

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, the earliest ransomware attack occurred in 1989, targeting the healthcare industry. Tracing the same, the healthcare industry still remains a top target for such attacks even after twenty eight years.

Ransomware is a cyber-attack wherein hackers gain control over a computer system and block access to it until the demanded ransom is paid. Hackers get control of systems by downloading a type of malicious software onto a device within the network. This is usually done by getting a victim to click on download link by mistake. The link is normally attached with an email, which once opened, encrypts the hard drive. Once the software gets into the victim’s computer, it enables the hackers to launch an attack that locks all files it can find within that network.

The recent ‘WannaCry’, also known as Wanna Decryptor is a ransomware programme that locks all the available data in the system leaving the user with only instructions on what to do next and the Wanna Decryptor programme itself.

When the software is opened, it tells the users that the files on their computer have been encrypted. It then gives them a few days to pay up, warning that their files will otherwise be deleted. It generally gives them instructions to pay in Bitcoin, providing the Bitcoin address for it to be sent to.

 

 

What is the way out?

Larger organizations should ideally follow the guidelines provided by concerned institutions:

  • Apply the latest Microsoft security patches for this particular flaw.
  • Ensure all outgoing and incoming emails are scanned for malicious attachments.
  • Ensure anti-virus programmes are up to date and conducting regular scans.
  • Backup all key data and information.
  • Organize education programmes on malware so employees can identify scams, malicious links or emails that may contain hazardous viruses.
  • Run “penetration tests” against your network’s security at least once a year.

Many experts even suggested restoring all files from a backup. If that isn’t possible, there are tools that can decrypt and recover some information.

5 Strategies for Cyber Security in Small Business Organizations

Oct 16, 2017

If you’re a small business organization, there is absolutely no reason for you to neglect cyber security. Not spending on security or relying on outdated software to protect your data – both are equally bad ideas.

Here are a few ways you should undertake to prevent damage to the reputation of your business repute:

Backups: Cyber attackers and hackers never leave an opportunity to take your data “hostage” and demand a ransom before releasing that data. Hence, small organizations must practice backing up data in the cloud or a hybrid data centre.

Update IT Systems: As malicious attacks are evermore wreaking havoc in the cyber-verse, it is essential for organizations to protect their business data at all costs. A top to bottom evaluation with an emphasis on vulnerabilities is important. Key assets like information about property, confidential personal data, etc. must be guarded against.

   Cyber security education: In any data-security effort, any individual can intentionally or not become a “weak-link”. More often, an employee nursing grudge against the organization may compromise security. To avoid such incidences, smaller organizations can always undertake a rigorous cyber security education program.

Proper planning: Included in the data-security education program should be procedures teaching employees how to react in the event of unauthorized intrusions, example, phishing or malware attempts. A detailed incident response plan that redirects to helpdesks or IT teams can have a significant impact.

Mobile device security: A lot of times employees in small organizations use their mobile devices for work and work-related communication. The thought of data passage through unsecured channels is nightmarish enough for organizations to establish policies like – (i) Categorizing and restricting the types of information that can be shared or accessed through these devices, (ii) Enforcing network access control wherein employees can access your business’s VPN and email in a reliable manner, (iii) Determining whether mobile devices provided by the business can be taken off-site.

India at 23rd position in the list of information secured countries

Oct 17, 2017

The second Global Cyber Security Index (GCI), released by the UN telecommunications agency, International Telecommunications Union (UTC) places India at 23rd position in the list of information secured countries. The rank is among 165 other nations across the world who have committed to cyber security.

The report reveals that only about half of all countries already have a cyber security strategy or are in the process of developing one. It urges countries to engage in cyber security education initiatives and job creation in the sector.

Singapore tops the index with a 0.925 score.

Other countries in the top 10 are United States, Malaysia, Oman, Estonia, Mauritius, Australia, Georgia, France and Canada.

The report says that 38 per cent of these countries have a published cyber security strategy while 12 per cent of governments are in the process of developing one.

The threat is dangerously worrying because in 2016, according to ITU, about one per cent of all emails sent were malicious attacks. The rate is the highest in recent years.

The findings show that there is “space for further improvement in cooperation” at all levels. It further advocates for encouraging governments to consider national policies that take into account cyber security and encourage private citizens to make smart decisions online.

Five point strategy of ITU to develop efficient information security systems

The Indian government has taken a few steps to bring the attacks under control. Under PM Narendra Modi’s tenure, the Central govt established the office of Chief Information Ofiicer of Cyber Security Cell under PM’s office. Dr Gulshan Rai is the first to hold the post.

CERT-In, an emergency response team is set up under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology for dealing with a range of cyber-attacks.

Apart from this, the Government of India has four Sectoral Computer Emergency Response Teams to address Cyber Security Threats in Power Systems: Transmission, Thermal, Hydro and Distribution.

All the four utilities have been asked to identify a nodal senior executive as its Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to lead the process of strengthening organizational systems with respect to cyber security and implement an information security management systems as recommended by rules under the Information Technology (IT) Act 2008.

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