May 12th, 2017
The NHS has been hit by a ransomware attack today, affecting at least 16 of their trusts in the UK according to The Guardian. This is a widespread attack affecting businesses in 12 countries, from Ukraine to Taiwan.
The NHS has been thrown into bedlam by the attack as patient records, scheduled appointments, communication between medical devices and internal communication between staff have been rendered inaccessible.
The attack was perpetrated using a vulnerability exploit developed by the US National Security Agency that was then stolen by a hacking group known as the "Shadow Brokers".
Update: May 13th, 2017
Teams of technicians worked "round the clock" Saturday to restore hospital computer systems in Britain and check bank or transport services in other nations after a global cyberattack hit dozens of countries and crippled the U.K.'s health system. The worldwide attack was so unprecedented that Microsoft quickly changed its policy and announced that it will make security fixes available for free for older Windows systems, which are still used by millions of individuals and smaller businesses.
The patches are available for download from here. Microsoft also advises companies and users to disable the Windows Server Message Block version 1 protocol, as it's an old and outdated protocol, already superseded by newer versions, such as SMBv2 and SMBv3... Microsoft had released a fix for that exploit a month before, in March, in security bulletin MS17-010 [which] included fixes for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2016.
As of this time (3:29 pm ET on May 15th 2017) no Avanan customers have been affected by this attack
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a hacking strategy that involves stealing information from or compromizing the system of the victim and asking for a ransom (usually in bitcoin) to repair the damage.