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Huge cyberattack leaves computers across the world reeling

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Update: Organizations and individuals across the UK, Europe and beyond are scrambling to restore their computer systems after a ransomware program called WannaCry caused an unprecedented level of disruption over the weekend.

In the traditional ransomware style, WannaCry demands bitcoin payments before it will unlock files that have been encrypted on users’ machines, as well as spreading itself automatically to other networked computers. It’s believed that the malware exploits a security hole in unpatched, older versions of Windows, including Windows XP.

On Sunday, Europol said 200,000 victims in 150 countries were believed to be hit so far, with another wave of attacks potentially on the way as people begin to switch their office computers back on on Monday morning – giving the ransomware new ways to spread.

Stay on guard

The National Cyber Security Centre in the UK is warning both businesses and individuals to be on their guard, especially those running older versions of Windows. The NCSC site also includes some smart advice for protecting your computers against ransomware of this kind.

The NHS in the UK, Telefónica in Spain, Renault in France and dozens of other companies are believed to be affected, with reports that WannaCry has now spread to more than a hundred countries. Microsoft has taken the unusual step of pushing out a Windows XP security patch for the bug, some three years after official support for XP ended.

As of Sunday afternoom, the scale of the damage was still being assessed, and it’ll be some time yet before affected systems can be cleaned up and put back on their feet. It’s safe to say if you’re struggling to connect with any kind of computer system this weekend, anything from train times to doctor appointments, WannaCry could be to blame.

The NHS in the UK was one of the first organizations to raise the alarm, and our original report continues below.

The NHS has confirmed that a number of hospitals across England have been the victims of a large scale cyberattack, with NHS employees taking to social media claiming that PCs in their hospitals were displaying a message saying “your computers are now under their control and pay a certain amount of money. And now everything is gone.”

Taking over a PC and threatening to delete its data unless money is paid is a classic move of ransomware viruses, and while they can cause anguish and disruption when infecting home and business machines, when it comes to hospitals lives could be at stake.

Affected hospitals are postponing all non-urgent activity and are asking people not to come to A&E. Instead people should dial 111 for urgent medical advice, or 999 if it is a life-threatening emergency.

A statement released by East and North Hertfordshire NHS trust, which covers some of the hospitals affected, says that “today (Friday, 12 May 2017), the trust has experienced a major IT problem, believed to be caused by a cyber attack.

“Immediately on discovery of the problem, the trust acted to protect its IT systems by shutting them down; it also meant that the trust’s telephone system is not able to accept incoming calls.”

According to the BBC, the attack has also spread across Europe, hitting mobile brand Telefonica too. It increasingly appears to be a sophisticated, coordinated attack.

Warning signs

Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before a cyberattack of this scale would hit hospitals, with a warning from Andrew Avanessian, vice president at Avecto, a global security software company, circulating a few days ago that said that “hospitals are often targets due to the value of the data they hold. Not only does patient data have a resale value, it’s sensitive enough that NHS Trusts are likely to pay a ransom to get it back if it becomes encrypted.”

While we’d often advise people infected by ransomware to contact the police before paying any sort of ransom – mainly because there’s no guarantee that the malicious users behind the malware will release your data even if they get paid – the NHS doesn’t have that luxury considering lives could be at stake.

Avanessian suggested that it could be outdated software that caused the problem here, saying “outdated systems can often be to blame, and it’s bad news for patients that 90% of Trusts are running old versions of Windows that are riddled with security holes.”

He suggested NHS trusts update their software as soon as possible, but sadly it looks like it’s too late.

Road to recovery

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“We commend NHS England on reacting so quickly, and for being open about this attack,” said Chris Ross, Senior Vice President, International at storage giants Barracuda.

“Healthcare records holding sensitive and personal data are 100 times more valuable than stolen credit card details, so it comes as no surprise to see that NHS England has been targeted in this way.

“Having been attacked the focus now must be to recover with minimal disruption. We would hope that the hospitals that have been hit have already devised and implemented a comprehensive backup recovery plan that will allow them to recover all encrypted files with minimal effort.

“This just goes to prove that cybercriminals don’t care who they target with ransomware, as long as the victim is willing to pay. All sizes of organisations have been targeted, and the impact is far reaching. It’s not just your hard-earned money that is at risk, it’s also your reputation, viability, and jobs.”

source:http://www.techradar.com/news/nhs-hospitals-in-england-hit-by-massive-cyberattack

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Internet

FACEBOOK IS TESTING ITS VERY OWN DATING APP

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Yes, Facebook Dating is a real thing. And we may have just received a sneak peek.

Jane Manchun Wong — an app researcher who’s spotted Facebook features in the past, like Talent Show — posted photos from what she claims is an internal test of Facebook Dating.

 

The company wouldn’t say whether these pics are the real deal, although it did confirm it’s testing Facebook Dating internally.

Two months ago, at its F8 developer conference, Facebook shared that it was developing a dating app. Aspiring yenta Mark Zuckerberg explained it was “going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not hookups.”

Later, on its blog, Facebook dished out a few more details: “People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.”

From Wong’s photos, it looks like the app will let you prevent your current Facebook friends from seeing your dating profile, thus avoiding potential embarrassment. It’ll also offer a variety of gender options, including trans man, trans woman, and non-binary.

No word on when, exactly, Facebook Dating will become available to the public. Guess you’ll just have to make do with Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Happn, Grindr, Hinge, and the thousands of other dating apps out there in the meantime.

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WHATSAPP MESSAGES AND SENDERS CAN BE ALTERED AFTER YOU RECEIVED THEM, SAY RESEARCHERS

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Security researchers have discovered that it’s possible for hackers to change both the content and the sender of a WhatsApp message after you’ve received it …

This includes the ability to change quoted messages, to make it appear you said something you didn’t.

CNET reports that the possibility was discovered by Check Point Software Technologies.

The firm] found that hackers can create a hacked version of the app and alter a quoted message (a past one that someone is replying directly one) to change the content or sender.

The hacker would, however, need to be part of the chat, so the vulnerability mostly applies to group chats.

WhatsApp told the NYT that it was not aware of the technique being used in the wild, and a cure would be worse than the problem.

One solution would be to create transcripts of every message exchange to verify the accuracy of every quote. Creating such a transcript is a significant privacy risk because those accounts of what people wrote to each other must be stored somewhere, the company said.

All WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that only those within a chat would be able to exploit the loophole. Storing a transcript would effectively mean removing that end-to-end encryption.

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WHATSAPP INTRODUCES GROUP CALLS FOR UP TO 4 PEOPLE

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Times after Messenger launched the video call option, WhatsApp rolls out its new feature for conference video calling. The new WhatsApp feature is now available to facilitate the users around the globe on iOS and Android.

Distinctly, the group calling feature supports up to four people at the same time.

The functionality is pretty simple: To start the video call with one of the contacts, a button on the top right corner of the screen will let the user add another participant to call.

Once the call gets connected, an add icon appears, on the top right, above the names of the recipients. However, if the third user accepts the call their names will be separated with a comma. The feature can connect up to four people on a video call, all at the same time.

Noteworthy is the fact that this feature only works on the latest version of WhatsApp.

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