Business braces for global hacking assault

A new fast-spreading computer attack and a hacking group’s threat to release a fresh trove of stolen cyberweapons are fuelling fears among businesses and security experts of another global technology assault.

The new attack, called Adylkuzz, follows last week’s WannaCry outbreak, which crippled computers in more than 100 countries over the weekend. Both attacks rely on a Windows bug that was patched on March 14 and only affect PCs that haven’t installed the latest version of Microsoft’s software updates. Unlike its predecessor, Adylkuzz doesn’t lock up computer screens; it slows down systems as it quietly steals processing power to generate a little-known digital currency called Monero.

Adylkuzz began spreading about two weeks ago and by Wednesday had infected more than 150,000 machines around the globe, according to Ryan Kalember, senior vice-president with the security intelligence firm Proofpoint. That was nearly the same count as WannaCry, which had largely stopped spreading, security experts said.

Security company Kaspersky Lab ZAO pegged the number of Adylkuzz infections at just several thousand by Wednesday.

The news comes a day after a hacking group called the Shadow Brokers separately posted an internet message saying it would release a new trove of cyberattack tools next month. The group claimed to have software that would affect web browsers, routers, mobile phones and Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. Its first trove, which it and Microsoft said was stolen from the National Security Agency, was dumped last month and used by WannaCry.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company was aware of the new Shadow Brokers claim and that its security teams actively monitored for emerging threats. The NSA has declined to comment on the authenticity of the Shadow Brokers documents or the WannaCry attack.

The threats highlight the growing risks of global assaults for businesses and governments posed by a nexus of mysterious hackers and powerful, government-crafted cyberweapons.

“In a few years we’re going to be looking back and saying that 2017 was clearly a turning point,” said Edward Amoroso, the former security chief at AT&T.

“That’s when we started to see businesses affected. If your employees are coming in and they can’t work, that’s a big deal.”

For companies looking to protect their systems, security experts agree on one piece of advice: install patches to Windows software now.

Still, that may not be enough to stop the next attack.

“There’s no wall you can build that’s high enough or deep enough to keep a dedicated adversary out,” said John Carlin, a former cybercrimes prosecutor at the Justice Department.

Larger companies will needed to step up their security training, patching and planning, he said. Smaller mum-and-pop businesses may need to hand over security to companies that specialise in these services. “It’s crazy to expect a mum-and-pop to on their own have to deal with cybersecurity ­issues,” said Mr Carlin, now the chairman of law firm Morrison & Foerster’s global risk and crisis management practice.

The scope and intensity of the WannaCry cyberattack would bring staffing, investment and policy under review, security chiefs and CIOs have said.

Corporate computer security spending is expected to hit $US90 billion ($121bn) worldwide this year, an increase of 7.6 per cent from a year earlier, according to research firm Gartner.

That increased spending has helped drive up share prices at ­security companies.


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