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WannaCry ransomware: CERT-In explains measures to prevent infection, how to tackle the aftermath

The WannaCry ransomware has currently affected 75,000 systems in over 100 countries.


The WannaCrypt ransomware has managed to cause over 75,000 attacks in 100 countries with major alerts being issued everywhere. The ransomware, also known as ‘WannaCry’ demands $300 in Bitcoin to unlock encrypted files and threatens users to permanently delete them for failure of payments. This malware can infect systems running on the same network and can also come through malicious attachments sent through emails. The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), through a webcast has addressed all the issues of the WannaCry ransomware, from how it affects a user and organization and its safety measures.

The webcast posted by the CERT-in can be accessed by clicking here. As explained by the CERT-In, the WannaCry malware comprises of a worm and a ransomware package, and encrypts files on infected Windows systems. It can spread to other systems using the same LAN and also through malicious attachments. The ransom demand which was $300 is now said to have increased up to $600 in Bitcoin. Infected systems will receive a display message by the attackers on how to escape this ransomware by offering to pay the ransom demand. There’s a timer as well showing how much time is left to complete the ransom demand. The desktop wallpaper will then change along with a text box explaining what has happened, and instructing users on how to complete the ransom demand.

The webcast shows a long list of file extensions and file formats which are prime targets of this ransomware. These file formats, extensions range from office data, media files, database files, encryption keys, virtual machine files and more. The Wannacry ransomware hides itself in a folder named ‘ProgramData’ or in C Drive under the file name ‘tasksche.exe’. It also uses the filename ‘mssecsvc.exe’ in C Drive location. It then grants access to all files in the system. ALSO READ: CERT-In issues red-alert over WannaCry cyber attack

The CERT-In has issued measures to prevent users and organizations both from the WannaCry ransomware attacks. The first and most important one is the security update issued by Microsoft today titled ‘Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010’. This security patch had been rolled out in March for its operating systems. But this update is now available for unsupported operating systems like Windows XP, 8 and Server 2003. ALSO READ: Microsoft issues security patch for Windows XP, 8, Server 2003 after WannaCrypt ransomware attacks

General steps that users should follow to prevent ransomware of such should use anti-virus protection, block spam, and regularly backup data on offline platforms. Users shouldn’t open malicious attachments even if they come from trusted contacts, and disable macros in Microsoft Office products. A detailed set of instructions are laid out for enterprises like blocking certain UDP and TCP port, deploying email validation systems, web and email filters, scan all emails, attachments and downloads. The CERT-In also advises keeping a backup of all the critical and important data and saving them offline. ALSO READ: No, I don’t WannaCry, but we’re all collectively responsible for a lot of pain around us

If a system is already infected by the WannaCry ransomware, then one should immediately isolate it from the network, run cleanup tools, preserve the data even if it is encrypted, and report the incident to CERT-In and the local law enforcement agency.
In addition to this, Mishi Choudhary, technology lawyer from Software Freedom Law Centre has also issued similar guidelines to remain safe from such ransomware attacks. He highlights how agencies and organizations have not been stringent with regular software updates and also how such a major attack was caused so easily and without the need of attacking something prime like a power grid.

He further points out the lack of security system in the most vulnerable platform in India, Aadhaar. He says, “The lead agency has played defensive and offensive each time any researcher highlights flaws or leaks. It has shunned taking real action to plug in security holes and relied on PR or ad-hoc rules based arrangements to cure a design defect. We hope this cautionary take pushes us towards an honest and transparent discussion about vulnerabilities that a digitized society brings.” ALSO READ: 135 million Aadhaar numbers made public by four government portals: CIS report

  • Published Date: May 15, 2017 1:48 PM IST
  • Updated Date: May 16, 2017 8:44 AM IST