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WannaCry2 virus ‘was truly global in scale’

Thursday, 18th May, 2017 1:01am

The overall scale of cybercrime has been steadily rising for years, a Cork-based cybercrime researcher has revealed.

His statement came following the global outbreak of the WannCry2 virus.

Once infected, it demands that users pay a ransom in bitcoins, a type of digital currency.

It threatens to delete all the computer’s files if the ransom is not paid.

Robert McArdle is on Trend Micro’s Forward Looking Threat Research team in Europe.

At Trend Micro’s base on the Model Farm Road, Mr McArdle is involved in analysing the latest cybercrime threats.

When asked by the Cork Independent if he was surprised by the global scale of this cyber-attack, he replied: “While this has been the first such global outbreak in recent years of a single malware family, the overall scale of cybercrime has been steadily rising for years.

“Today it is unusual for a single attack to be as noisy and widespread as this, with cybercriminals preferring instead to stay under the radar for as long as possible, as the goal is purely financially motivated.”

He described cybercrime in the same realm of concern as the worldwide illegal drugs trade – with it far from unusual to see organised crime groups making tens of millions each, or more, from schemes.

Whereas ransomware attacks via malicous e-mail attachments have become commonplace, this newly-discovered malware type, – generally referred to as WannaCry2 – is both ‘cryptor’ and ‘worm’. Therefore, it possesses the ability replicate functional copies of itself to other networked hosts without the need for users to click on links or otherwise interact. As such, it can spread very rapidly from machine to machine.

Following the attacks on the NHS on Friday, which limited the delivery of many of services in the UK, the HSE worked over the weekend in order to prevent its network from being compromised.

There was a suspected case of it in a Wexford hospital which was isolated and maintained on Saturday.

On Monday, it emerged that three other HSE computers were suspected as having the virus but the HSE confirmed after an examination that these computers did not have it.

On Tuesday afternoon, the HSE confirmed that a reboot of servers across the network took place in order to activate additional security updates designed to address the WannaCry ransomware virus.

More than 1,200 servers across the network were re-booted in order to activate software security updates.

Mr McArdle concluded: “This malware outbreak was not specifically targeted in nature, for example against the healthcare system in the UK.

“The NHS was simply one of the most high profile victims, but even the UK was hit less than other countries such as Russia or China. This outbreak was truly global in scale,” he said.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), in the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis, and remains in close contact with international counterparts and with public and private sector entities in Ireland, both in terms of the dealing with the threat and taking measures to ensure that the impact of any future variants of this malware is limited.

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