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Cyber attack’s spread slows; security stocks gain

By Guy Faulconbridge and Dustin Volz12 | LONDON/WASHINGTON

LONDON/WASHINGTON The global WannaCry “ransomware” cyber attack spread more slowly on Monday with no major infections reported, as attention shifted to investment and government policy implications of lax cyber security.

There were 213,000 infected machines in 112 countries as of 1000 GMT on Monday, according to Czech security firm Avast, making it one of the largest coordinated attacks to hit computers across the world.

The countries most affected by WannaCry were the same as Friday: Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine and India, Avast’s data showed.

The number of infections has fallen dramatically since Friday s peak when more than 9,000 computers were being hit per hour . By afternoon on the U.S East Coast, new infections had fallen to the low hundreds of machines and continue to decline, Avast said.

Earlier on Monday, Chinese traffic police and schools reported they had been targeted as the attack rolled into Asia for the new work week, but no there were no major disruptions.

Authorities in Europe and the United States turned their attention to preventing hackers from spreading new versions of the virus.

Tom Bossert, U.S . President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser, said people “should be thinking about this as an attack that for right now we have under control, but as an attack that represents an extremely serious threat,” speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show.

Shares in firms that provide cyber security services jumped on the prospect of companies and governments spending more money on defenses, led by Israel’s Cyren Ltd (CYRN.O) and U.S . firm FireEye Inc (FEYE.O)..

Cisco Systems (CSCO.O) rose 2.8 percent, making it the leading gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which was up more than 100 points in afternoon trading, as investors focused more on opportunities the attack presented rather than the risk it posed to corporations.

The perpetrators of the attack are still not known . Bossert said that while U.S . officials had not ruled out the possibility that it was a “state action,” he said it appeared to be criminal, given the ransom requests.

Some victims were ignoring official advice and paying the $300 ransom demanded by the cyber criminals to unlock their computers, which was due to double to $600 on Monday for computers hit by Friday’s first wave.

So far only a few victims of the attack appeared to have paid, based on publicly available bitcoin accounts on the web, where victims have been instructed to pay.

The initial ransom demand was $300 per machine . Three days after becoming infected the demand doubles . Starting on Monday, the first victims began facing demands of $600 to unlock their machines.

This coming Friday, victims face being locked out of their computers permanently if they fail to pay the $600 ransom, said Tom Robinson, co-founder of Elliptic, a London-based private security company that investigates ransomware attacks.

As of 1400 GMT, the total value of funds paid into anonymous bitcoin wallets the hackers are using stood at just $55,169, from 209 payments, according to calculations made by Reuters using publicly available data.

Brian Lord, managing director of cyber and technology at cyber security firm PGI, said victims had told him “the customer service provided by the criminals is second-to-none,” with helpful advice on how to pay: “One customer said they actually forgot they were being robbed.”

Companies and governments spent the weekend upgrading software to limit the spread of the virus . Monday was the first big test for Asia, where offices had already mostly been closed for the weekend before the attack first arrived.

Renault-Nissan (RENA.PA) (7201.T) said output had returned to normal at nearly all its plants . PSA Group (PEUP.PA), Fiat Chrysler (FCHA.MI), Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE), Daimler (DAIGn.DE), Toyota (7203.T) and Honda (7267.T) said their plants were unaffected.

British media were hailing as a hero a 22-year-old computer security whiz who appeared to have helped stop the attack from spreading by discovering a “kill switch” – an internet address which halted the virus when activated.

Individual European countries and the United States saw infections at a rate of only 10 percent to 20 percent of the most affected countries, according to the researcher who stumbled on the kill switch.

The virus hit computers running older versions of Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) software that had not been recently updated . Microsoft released patches last month and on Friday to fix a vulnerability that allowed the worm to spread across networks . The company’s shares were down about 1 percent on Monday, in a slightly higher broad market.

Infected computers appear to be largely out-of-date devices . Some have also been machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions, difficult to patch without disrupting operations.

Graphic on cyber attack tmsnrt.rs/2qIUckv3

POLITICAL TOPIC

The U.S . Senate Intelligence Committee is monitoring the attack and expects to receive a briefing in the coming days from the Trump administration, a panel aide said.

In a blog post on Sunday, Microsoft President Brad Smith confirmed what researchers had already widely concluded: the attack made use of a hacking tool built by the U.S . National Security Agency that had leaked online in April.

He poured fuel on a long-running debate over how government intelligence services should balance their desire 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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting the technology’s link to the U.S . spy service, said it should be “discussed immediately on a serious political level.”

“Once they’re let out of the lamp, genies of this kind, especially those created by intelligence services, can later do damage to their authors and creators,” he said.

In Britain, where the virus first raised global alarm when it caused hospitals to divert ambulances on Friday, it gained traction as a political issue just weeks before a general election . The opposition Labour Party accused the Conservative government of leaving the National Health Service (NHS) vulnerable.

“The government’s response has been chaotic,” the British Labour Party’s health spokesman Jon Ashworth said. “If you’re not going to allow the NHS to invest in upgrading its IT, then you are going to leave hospitals wide open to this sort of attack.”

Britain’s NHS is the world’s fifth-largest employer after the U.S . and Chinese militaries, Wal-Mart Stores and McDonald’s . The government says that under a previous Labour administration the trusts that run local hospitals were given responsibility to manage their own computer systems.

Asked if the government had ignored warnings over the NHS being at risk from cyber attack, Prime Minister Theresa May told Sky News: “No . It was clear (that) warnings were given to hospital trusts.”

British health minister Jeremy Hunt said on Monday it was “encouraging” that a predicted second spike of attacks had not occurred, but the ransomware was a warning to public and private organizations.

ASIA IMPACT

China appeared over the weekend to have been particularly vulnerable, raising worries about how well the world’s second-largest economy would cope . However, officials and security firms said the spread was starting to slow.

“The growth rate of infected institutions on Monday has slowed significantly compared to the previous two days,” said Chinese Internet security company Qihoo 360.

An official from Cybersecurity Administration China (CAC) told local media on Monday the ransomware had affected industry and government computer systems but the spread was slowing.

Energy giant PetroChina (601857.SS) said payment systems at some petrol stations were hit although it had restored most of the systems.

Elsewhere in Asia, Conglomerate Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) said the attack had affected its systems over the weekend, leaving them unable to receive and send emails or open attachments in some cases.

At Indonesia s biggest cancer hospital, Dharmais Hospital in Jakarta, attacks affected scores of computers . By late morning, some people were still manually filling out forms, but 70 percent of systems were online.

India’s government said it received only a few reports of attacks and urged those hit not to pay any ransom . No major Indian corporations reported disrupted operations.

(Additional reporting by Cate Cadell, Jemima Kelly, Eric Auchard and Tim Ahmann; Writing by Peter Graff and Nick Zieminski; Editing by Peter Millership and Bill Rigby)


References

  1. ^ Guy Faulconbridge (uk.reuters.com)
  2. ^ Dustin Volz (uk.reuters.com)
  3. ^ tmsnrt.rs/2qIUckv (tmsnrt.rs)

Roses in hand, Venezuelan women protesters face security forces

CARACAS Dressed in white and chanting “Liberty!”, tens of thousands of women opposed to Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro marched on Saturday, proffering roses to security forces who blocked their way.

The women’s marches, which took place in most major cities around the South American oil producer, were the latest in five weeks of sustained protests against Maduro whom opponents decry as a dictator who has ruined the economy.

In Caracas, marchers sang the national anthem and shouted “We want elections!” They were halted at various points by lines of policewomen and National Guard troops with armoured cars.

The opposition, which has majority support in Venezuela after years of being in the shadow of the ruling Socialist Party, is demanding that delayed state elections be held and the 2018 presidential vote be brought forward.

They also want the government to free scores of jailed activists, allow humanitarian aid from abroad to offset a brutal economic crisis, and respect the independence of the legislature where the opposition won a majority in 2015.

Highlighting vandalism and violence by young masked protesters, Maduro says opponents are seeking a coup with U.S . support and harbour “terrorists” and “murderers” in their ranks.

In response to the crisis, the 54-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez is setting up a super body known as a “constituent assembly” with powers to rewrite the constitution, shake up public powers, and potentially replace the legislature.

“This march is against opposition terrorism, they are destroying everything,” said cook Fredesvilda Paulino, 54, at a pro-government rally also in Caracas on Saturday where red-shirted women waved pro-Maduro flags and banners.

The women’s marches were organised as part of an opposition attempt to vary tactics and keep momentum against Maduro.

Women have often been feeling the brunt of Venezuela’s economic crisis due to widespread food and medicine shortages, huge lines at shops, soaring prices, and increasing hunger in the nation of 30 million people.

THIRTY-SEVEN DEATHS

Since the anti-Maduro protests began in early April, at least 37 people have died, with victims including supporters of both sides, bystanders and members of the security forces.

Opposition leaders say the constituent assembly is a biased mechanism designed to keep an unpopular leader in power.

They say the government is to blame for violence by young protesters as authorities are refusing a free vote to resolve the crisis and are needlessly blocking and repressing marches.

“Just let us vote, and this will all end,” said teacher Anlerisky Rosales, 22, in the opposition women’s march in Caracas. “There is too much suffering in Venezuela . If we have to, we will give our lives in the street until Maduro goes.”

Various female protesters marched topless with black face masks in mourning for the fatalities.

At one point, a female government official emerged from the security lines to receive a petition and talk with the demonstration leaders.

With Maduro’s approval ratings at around 24 percent – less than half the level at the time of his narrow election victory in 2013 – and Venezuela suffering a fourth year of harrowing recession, the opposition’s challenge is to keep up street pressure and draw in support from poor former “Chavista” sectors.

Officials are hoping they become exhausted and disillusioned, while highlighting the violence of young opposition hotheads to try to discredit the whole opposition.

Many Venezuelans are closely watching the armed forces, who have the potential to tip the balance if they disobey government instructions or give Maduro a nudge behind the scenes.

Top armed forces officials have been pledging loyalty in public, though opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Friday that 85 military officials had been arrested for dissent.

(Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago in Caracas, Anggy Polanco in San Cristobal, Maria Ramirez in Ciudad Guayana; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Increased security measures for Gloucester’s last Premiership game this Saturday

There will be a full road closure in place tomorrow afternoon as security measures are stepped up for the Gloucester Rugby game. Kingsholm Road will be completely closed from 3pm, and kick off is at 4pm. The Cherry and Whites1 will be playing the Exeter Chiefs in the last match of the season.

With less than 100 tickets remaining in the Shed, it’s expected to be a busy game.

And there will be increased security measures in place. Police to Twitter to remind people that Kingsholm Road will be shut from 3pm. Those using the Park and Ride service are advised that this service will drop supporters in Worcester Street by the bridge, to allow the bus to return up Black Dog Way and return to the Park and Rude point.

Read: As it happened: Conservatives take comprehensive win on dark night for Labour2

References

  1. ^ The Cherry and Whites (www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk)
  2. ^ As it happened: Conservatives take comprehensive win on dark night for Labour (www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk)