As a new work week has started Monday in Asia, a number of countries including Japan, South Korea, and China were also greeted with the effects of the global cyberattack that affected the UK and the rest of Europe over the weekend. Chinese state media say more than 29,000 institutions across the country have been infected by the attacks known as “ransomware.” And as the U.S. is about to open a new work week in a matter of hours, there are fears that Monday could bring a wave of attacks on the nation as well.
Caleb Barlow, vice president of threat intelligence for IBM has issued the warning that how the infections spread across Europe and Asia will be telling for business in the U.S. Europol has reported that the cyberattack has hit 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries.
The main target of the attacks may have been outside the U.S. but both the government and American corporations are not relaxing by assuming that the country will continue to be safe from the attacks. In fact, the Trump administration said Sunday that the components of the “ransomware” may be more complex than originally believed. Experts have also issued a warning that the effects of the attacks could linger further.
In anticipation to the possible vulnerabilities of the U.S., President Trump has instructed his homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, who has a background in cyber issues, to coordinate the government’s response to the spread of the malware and assist in organizing the search for who was behind the crime.
Current attacks are said to be in the “second wave” already. The attackers have also released copycat variants of the malware, and experts are warning that more could be expected.
A 22-year-old British researcher who uses the Twitter name MalwareTech has been hailed as an accidental hero for inadvertently helping to thwart the spread of the assault by identifying the web domain for the hackers “kill switch”- a way of disabling the malware. The cyber security researcher’s action proved crucial because even though his solution came too late to help the UK and European organizations already badly hit by the attack, it gave precious time over the weekend for those here in the U.S. to set up defenses against the malware.
On Sunday, MalwareTech was one of many security experts who warned that a less-vulnerable version of the malware is likely to be released. On Twitter, he advised users to immediately install a security patch for older versions of Microsoft’s Windows, including Windows XP. The attack did not target Windows 10.
The Microsoft patch will help, but installing it across large organizations will take time. What is also being feared is that security specialists may not be able to keep pace with attackers.
Robert Pritchard, a former cybersecurity expert at Britain’s defense ministry, said that the vulnerability still exits; other people are bound to exploit it. The current variant will make its way into antivirus software. He raised concerns about any new variants that will come in the future.