President Trump reportedly ordered an emergency meeting after the massive global cyber attack that has already affected 200,000 computers in 150 countries. Trump ordered his Homeland Security Adviser, Tom Bossert, to hold the emergency meeting over the weekend, according to Fox News. The WannaCry ransomware started taking over affected users’ files on Friday, demanding $300 to restore access to normal. Analysts at BBC said three accounts linked to the ransom demands suggests only about $38,000 had been paid by Monday morning.
The cyber attack began on Friday and the effects of the attack have continued through Monday, crippling major government and corporate operations. Senior security staffers with DHS, the FBI, and the National Security Agency met on Friday and Saturday. The meetings were called to generally assess the threat that has been caused by “WannaCry,” a senior administration official told Reuters.
Rob Wainwright, director of a Netherlands-based agency called Eurpol, said that the global reach of the cyber attacks is far beyond what their unit has seen in the past. Security experts warned that further cyber attacks are likely.
“The global reach is unprecedented and beyond what we have seen before… The latest count is over 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries, and those victims, many of those will be businesses, including large corporations.”
Wainwright said, “we are in the face of an escalating threat. The numbers are going up… I am worried about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn on their machines on Monday morning.”
However, the ransomware warning said that the cost would double after three days, so the payments may increase. The malware also threatened to delete files within seven days if a payment is not made.
European countries were hit by the cyber attacks the hardest, and business ground to a halt at several large companies and organizations, including banks, hospitals, and government agencies, according to the Daily Mail.
That meeting was attended by several cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries and “appropriate staff.” The identity of the perpetrators of the cyber attack is still unknown. FBI and National Security Agency were still working around the clock, said the official, who spoke with Reuters.
Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer said the cyber attack on Microsoft operating systems is equivalent to the U.S military having weapons stolen.
“We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on Wikileaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world… An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the US military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen.”
Confirmed at White House meetings, the malware attack affected the U.K.’s National Health Services and Russia’s Interior Ministry. Included in the attack are brand-name companies like FedEx and Nissan.
Shares of companies that sell software security services jumped as a global cyberattack continued to spread https://t.co/0OLZiLRIF5
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) May 15, 2017
The attack used a tool called Eternal Blue, which was developed by the National Security Agency. The tool was later stolen, according to the Financial Times.
How To Protect Yourself From Ransomware Attacks
Monday — a busy day, is expected to yield the worst impact as companies and organizations turn on their computers. Christian Karam, a Singapore-based security researcher said, “Expect to hear a lot more about this tomorrow morning when users are back in their offices and might fall for phishing emails.”
Quincy Larson, a software engineer, told ABC News that it is critical to install updates to your operating system as they become available. A reason you download updates is not just for new features but for security. Larson said ransomware is also acquired and spread through your email.
“If you are going to be infected by ransomware, it will happen when you get an email or some other form of message that’s asking you to download and run it, and when that file runs, then usually, the attacker will encrypt your hard drive, or encrypt part of your hard drive so that your computer is still operable and you can continue to use it, but you can’t access all your files.”
— IBM Security (@IBMSecurity) May 15, 2017
Larson added that the best way to prevent ransomware attacks is to make sure that every time your operating system or a software asks if it can run a system or security update — you update it.
“It’s absolutely critical that you install updates to your operating system and to all your software as they become available,” Larson said. “One of the reasons why you download the updates is not just for new features but it’s also for additional security.”
The U.S. Computers Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) issued specific advice to protect users against WannaCry ransomware threats that spread this weekend. The Readiness Team said computer users must, “be careful when clicking directly on links in emails, even if the sender appears to be known.”
If your computer has been affected by the attack, the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency says “do not pay!” as there is no guarantee that systems will be restored.
[Featured Image by Ron Sachs/Getty Images]