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What if Cybersecurity Threats like ‘WannaCry’ Affects Our Aadhaar System?

“This underscores importance of security in the system we are building with Aadhaar. The lead agency has played defensive and offensive each time any researcher highlights flaws or leaks.”

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Screenshot of system affected by ransomware virus, WannaCry

The ransomware attack called ‘WannaCry’ spread owing to a vulnerability in Microsoft XP for which a security patch had been released by Microsoft in March this year. As expected most organizations don't seem to have patched their operating system. India is listed among the already affected 74 countries.

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT –In) is responsible for scouting the Indian Internet domain for cybersecurity threats. It has issued this critical code red alert, “It has been reported that a new ransomware named as WannaCry is spreading widely. WannaCry encrypts the files on infected Windows systems. This ransomware spreads by using a vulnerability in implementations of server message block (SMB) in Windows systems. This exploit is named ETERNALBLUE.”

WannaCry is a type of ransomware.

A ransomware downloads a virus onto the user's device, mostly by clicking
on a suspicious link and then starts infecting everything a user may
have access to including network; it encrypts all the data it encounters
that can only be decrypted by a key provided after paying a ransom.
Unlike other cyberattacks, the data is usually kept intact, but is
encrypted by the virus. The only way to gain access to your data is to
buy the encryption key from the attacker in exchange of a ransom payment.

Mishi Choudhary, president and founding director at the Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) said,

"This is a flagrant example of a global blackmail facilitated by lax attitude of agencies and organizations on cybersecurity. In November last year, Sky News and Hacker House had warned about such risks but no heed was paid. Not installing regular software updates is the primary cause for such malware to spread like wildfire. This teaches us how something can wreak havoc without attacking the traditionally designated critical infrastructure like a power grid.”

A few tips to save yourself from ransomware:

1. Act early, don't be in denial
2. Use the Microsoft patch from March 2017
3. Install software updates
4. Use Free And Open Source Software
5. Don't click on suspicious links
6. Back up your data

Mr Choudhary continued, “This also underscores the importance of security in the system that we are building with Aadhaar. The lead agency has played defensive and offensive each time any researcher highlights flaws or leaks. It has shunned taking real action to plug in security holes and relied on PR or ad-hoc rules based arrangements to cure a design defect. We hope this cautionary tale pushes us towards an honest and transparent discussion about vulnerabilities that a digitized society brings.”

WannaCry started its spree on May 12. News of the threat came to light with 16 National Health Service (NHS) organizations in the UK and FedEx being affected but quickly spreading around the world. The demand from the hackers to release their hold on the PC has been a ransom payment of 300 dollars in bitcoins. It is also suspected that this malicious software was stolen from National Security Agency of the US.

CERT-In does not advocate paying this ransom amount to release an affected PC system since it does not guarantee the hackers will stick to their word.

Tags assigned to this article:
cert-in WannaCry ransomware

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