Nepal ‘safe’ from lethal ransomware attackNepal has so far not been hit by ransomware attack launched using a malicious electronic worm called ‘Petya/NotPetya’, albeit caution needs to be taken as the virus is rapidly spreading around the globe demanding a ransom of $300 from computer users to access data stored in their own PCs.
Nepal has so far not been hit by ransomware attack launched using a malicious electronic worm called ‘Petya/NotPetya’, albeit caution needs to be taken as the virus is rapidly spreading around the globe demanding a ransom of $300 from computer users to access data stored in their own PCs.
The cyber attack launched by unidentified hackers with e-mail id, email@example.com, has created havoc around the world, with Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Spain, Australia, France, the US and the UK witnessing sudden halt in operation of computers and businesses on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The computer virus that spread like a wildfire has crippled automated teller machines and operations of Russian oil giant Rosneft, American pharmaceutical giant Merck, Dutch shipping company Maersk, Spanish food conglomerate Mondelez, British marketing firm WPP and French manufacturer of construction materials Saint-Gobain.
This has once again reminded everyone about the vulnerability to such threats in a world that is connected by computers.
The latest global ransomware attack is the second major one in the last few months. Earlier in May, similar ransomware attack launched using malicious software called WannaCry had crippled many computers and business operations around the globe.
The virus had also hit around “80-90 computers” of a financial institution in Nepal at that time, a reliable source said on condition of anonymity. The situation is not that worse this time.
“So far, no one has been hit by the attack in Nepal,” said Sudhir Parajuli, executive member of the Internet Service Provider’s Association of Nepal. “But we cannot say this for sure as many organisations do not report such attacks.”
In the attack launched in the past and the recent one, cyber criminals have exploited the Achilles heel of Microsoft’s Windows system.
This vulnerability of Windows was first exploited by the US National Security Agency using a tool called EternalBlue. This tool was stolen by a group of hackers called The Shadow Brokers.
The group then made it public in April stating it was “a protest about US President Donald Trump”, according to the BBC. Since then Microsoft has launched a patch “to automatically protect computers against malicious attacks”.
Microsoft has also released updates for older operating systems, such as Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003.
However, many still may not have updated their Windows software, leaving their computers vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The latest incident took place after hackers tainted an accounting software package popular in the Ukraine. The contagion caused by the virus has already hit Ukraine’s largest banks, airports and utility companies, according to Bleeping Computer, a security news website.
Initially, experts thought this ransomware was the new edition of an older virus called Petya, which was first discovered in 2016.
Although some of the characteristics of the new malware are similar to that of Petya-which is the reason why some still prefer to call the new ransomware Petya-others say “this is a totally new strain altogether”. Hence, many have started calling the virus NotPetya.
Once this Petya/NotPetya virus hits a system, it blocks access to a computer and data unless payments demanded by cyber criminals are released.
Currently, hackers are demanding ransom of $300 in digital currency, Bitcoins. The request to gain access to computer and data must be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The hackers then send the key to gain access to computer and data.
However, people, whose systems have been hit by the ransomware, may not be able to retrieve their files even after paying the ransom, as the e-mail service provider has shut down the e-mail account used by hackers.
Yet the good news is that a vaccine has been found for Petya/NotPetya virus. However, vaccination will protect individual computers. So, it is not a cure to the entire problem. (See box on how to vaccinate computers).
So, until a solution is found to kill the virus, computer users must install robust anti-virus, update Microsoft Windows, refrain from opening suspicious attachments and create a backup of data in external devices.
How to vaccinate your computer