World

Microsoft president slams 
US govt over ransomware

WASHINGTON/FRANKFURT: Officials across the globe scrambled to catch the culprits behind a massive ransomware worm that disrupted operations at car factories, hospitals, shops and schools, while Microsoft pinned blame on the US government for not disclosing more software vulnerabilities.

In a blog post on Sunday, Microsoft president Brad Smith appeared to tacitly acknowledge what researchers had already widely concluded: The ransomware attack leveraged a hacking tool built by the US National Security Agency (NSA), which leaked online last month.

"This is an emerging pattern in 2017. We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the Central Intelligence Agency show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world," Mr Smith wrote.

He also poured fuel on a long-running debate over how government intelligence services should balance their desires to keep software flaws secret - in order to conduct espionage and cyber warfare - against sharing those flaws with technology companies to better secure the Internet.

Mr Smith said governments around the world should "treat this attack as a wake-up call" and "consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits".

Economic experts offered differing views on how much the attack, and the associated computer outages, would cost businesses and governments.

The non-profit US Cyber Consequences Unit research institute estimated that the total losses would range in the hundreds of millions of dollars, but not exceed US$1 billion (S$1.39 billion). - REUTERS

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