Island targeted by major ransomware virus

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  • Ronnie Viera

    Ronnie Viera

  • Michael Branco, CEO of Fireminds

    Michael Branco, CEO of Fireminds

Bermuda was targeted by a computer ransomware virus creating havoc around the world, an IT expert said yesterday.

Ronnie Viera, chief operating officer at online payment company First Atlantic Commerce, said: “We can see that Bermuda was targeted.

“What the impact was and who they were able to target is unknown because companies are not willing to share when they are attacked.”

The news came as Jeff Baron, the National Security Minister, said that the situation was “significant and serious enough” to justify oversight by the Emergency Measures Organisation.

Mr Viera, part of an informal islandwide cybersecurity group, was speaking after the WannaCry virus stuck last Friday, hitting companies and public bodies in 150 countries through Microsoft Windows operating systems.

The WannaCry ransomware takes over users’ files and demands $300 to restore them. The warning said that the cost would double after three days and threatened to delete files altogether if no payment was made within seven days.

Among the affected organisations worldwide are the UK’s National Health Service, German rail network Deutsche Bahn, Spanish telecoms firm Telefonica, US delivery service FedEx and the Russian government’s interior ministry.

And in France, some factories owned by car-maker Renault had to halt production.

Incidents were also reported as far apart as Australia and Scandinavia.

Mr Viera said: “We’ve been monitoring it. Obviously, it’s a huge, huge event. In Bermuda we don’t have any mechanism for reporting cybersecurity events, but we’re working to change that.”

He added FAC had checked to make sure all patches have been applied to its systems and taken further steps to ensure its network is safe.

Mr Viera said: “Ransomware is a serious thing. Many companies have been hit with it in the past and many have had to pay, which to me is personally offensive.

“There have been many companies in Bermuda which have had to pay the ransom.

“My understanding is that they got the keys to decorrupt their data, but the criminals have got away with it.”

He added that it would be difficult to estimate the impact and cost of the latest attack.

Mr Viera explained: “We wouldn’t know what the impact is unless someone volunteers the information. At the moment, it’s about vigilance and people knowing what they need to do to protect themselves.”

He said that the key to cybersafety was constant updating of systems and staff education to help spot suspicious online activity.

Mr Viera added: “The real thing is prevention — people should make sure patches are in place and educate staff, making them aware of what might be a suspicious e-mail or attachment.”

And he said that adequate back-up, where confidential or sensitive material was stored off the network, was a crucial factor for security.

Software giants Microsoft said the tool used in the attack had been developed by the US National Security Agency and stolen by hackers.

The company added that many organisations had failed to keep their systems up to date, which allowed the virus to spread.

Microsoft said it had released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem involved in the latest attack, but that many users had still not installed it.

Michael Branco, chief executive officer of IT technology firm Fireminds, a provider of colocation, managed data centre, infrastructure as a service and cloud hosting, as well as disaster recovery services, said clients on a managed service deal had patches applied proactively.

He added that the Fireminds team had worked over the weekend with clients who did not have managed service to do protective work.

Mr Branco said: “Starting on Saturday morning, we patched the servers which were approved. The guys put in some extra work over the weekend.

“The thing we are co-ordinating right now for those who didn’t have patches is to find a time to do these patches and the necessary reboots without doing it during the day.”

He added that Microsoft had produced a patch for Windows XP, even though it is an ageing operating system which is no longer supported.

Mr Branco said: “Hopefully this will prompt people to move to more up-to-date operating systems.”

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Published May 16, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated May 15, 2017 at 11:51 pm)

Island targeted by major ransomware virus

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