Understanding the "WannaCry" Ransomware Attack

French researchers reported on Friday that they finally discovered a way to save Windows files affected by WannaCry encryption attack, which started last Friday and has infected over 300,000 computers in almost 150 countries.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts all files on the host computer, displaying a message that the user must pay a ransom - usually in the electronic currency Bitcoin, which is notoriously hard to trace - if the user wants his or her files back. Windows automatically updates itself for security and bug fixes unless otherwise instructed, which means the vast majority of WannaCry infections should have been preventable.

However, if you've been infected by WannaCry and you haven't rebooted your computer in an attempt to get rid of it, you can give Wanakiwi a try. While most of the world is talking about how their machines can be restored and safeguarded, another debate recently soared that shamed Microsoft over not rolling timely security updates for its older operating system that still power a significant number of PCs, most notably Windows XP. The tool succeeds because WannaCry uses the Windows Crypto API in a way that results in the prime numbers used to compute the private key not being removed from memory.

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At first it was first thought that PC owners using Windows XP were most likely to be hit by the terrifying bug but new data has come to light which could disprove this. Specifically, more than 60% of victims were users of the 64-bit version of Windows 7 while about 32% were users of 32-bit version of Windows 7 operating system. "It can work under Windows XP because, in this version, CryptReleaseContext does not do the cleanup", Guinet said in the documentation for Wannakey.

What they are working on is reducing the size of updates so they are faster and cheaper to download in markets like South Africa.

A week after the lethal ransomware WannaCry struck thousands of computers across the globe, researchers have combined their efforts to produce a decryption tool, which Europol has confirmed worked as a successful decryptor in many cases. Individual computers were vulnerable to the worm component, said researchers at MWR and Kryptos, but could not spread the ransomware themselves. It stated, "WannaCrypt exploits used in the attack were drawn from the exploits stolen from the National Security Agency, or NSA, in the United States". The WannaCry ransomware demanded a payment of about $300 or £230 in bitcoins after encrypting files.

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