In one of the biggest cyber attacks in history, WannaCry ransomware infected over 2 lakh computers in around 150 countries that were running on older versions of Microsoft operating systems like XP by encrypting the files which affected several companies and the working of important services. Cyber criminals demanded a fee of about $300 in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin for unlocking the device.
The WanaCrypt0r 2.0 bug asked the payment to be made within three days or threatened the price to be doubled, and if none is received within seven days, the screen message read that the locked files will be deleted.
Barring sporadic incidents in a few states, most institutions and industries across India continued to remain insulated from the effects. Five or six isolated instances of ransomware were reported in states like Gujarat, Kerala and West Bengal.
A case from Andhra Pradesh was reported for 18 computers being targeted by the ransomware. In Gujarat, over 120-odd computers connected with GSWAN (Gujarat State Wide Area Network) were affected. However, no “crucial data” has been lost in the cyberattack, claimed the state government officials. Over 10 computers at customer care centres of West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) were attacked in West Midnapore, South Dinajpur and East Midnapore districts.
However, any substantial disruption to country’s IT backbone has been denied by the IT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan. Even, Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has reportedly said that the malware has had almost zero impact on India. Recognising the issue, Union Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told news agency ANI, “As far as this cyber issue is concerned, the Government of India is keeping a very strong watch on it. We have been updating our whole security measures since March itself, software has been installed.”
Banks, government departments and corporate houses issued messages of caution and reinforced online security. Corporate houses urged employees to back up their data and refrain from opening unfamiliar file attachments. However, business was unaffected as markets and offices opened on Monday (May 15) after a weekend during which ripple effects of the malware were witnessed across the globe, including Russia and the US. The broking and mutual fund industries too were not affected by the malware attack.
For now, the RBI has asked banks to operationalise their ATM networks only after software updates are installed.
Meanwhile, cybersecurity firm Quick Heal Technologies has detected more than 48,000 attempts across India. According to a PTI report, Quick Heal Technologies’ managing director Sanjay Katkar said, “Our observation is that the attack is not focused towards any particular industry but it is widely spread across industries especially those organisations which are online and connected.” According to its data, 60 percent of the attacks were targeted at enterprises while 40 percent against individuals.
Rumours spread on the social media on Monday that the ATMs were not functional at many places. However, bankers said this was likely because the machines had run out of cash.
WannaCry spread through a leaked NSA (National Security Agency) exploit which targets the erstwhile versions of the Microsoft Windows OS.