Weekly Tech Roundup — May 22

Technology News


The world is still reeling after last week’s worldwide ransomware attack. For days after, the timer continued to run out on encrypted computers and new variants started popping up. What’s next for data protection after an attack like this? Find out in this week’s tech roundup.

New WannaCry successor emerges

A new ransomware variant is taking advantage of the same Windows vulnerability as last week’s WannaCry attack, only this version has experts a lot more worried.

The new version is named EternalRocks, and it was first detected by a Croatian security expert on Wednesday, 17 May 2017, according to Fortune.

Much like its predecessor, EternalRocks uses the recently released NSA tool EternalBlue to propagate itself. This variant, however, also uses six other NSA tools with names like EternalChampion, EternalRomance and DoublePulsar.

EternalRocks doesn’t corrupt or compromise files to build a botnet. Instead, it leaves infected computers vulnerable to remote commands that could weaponize the device.

Right now, this WannaCry variant doesn’t have weaknesses like a kill switch. It also has a 24-hour activation delay so it is harder to catch with sandboxing defenses.

If this variant were to adopt malicious elements, it could cause an attack bigger and more destructive than the attack that hit last week. In response to these growing threats, users need to strengthen their data protection strategies with solutions that actively protect against ransomware. Stop ransomware attacks in their tracks with state-of-the-art features like Acronis Active Protection, which actively stops most ransomware from damaging the data on your PC.

Hackers threatening to release new ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie

Hackers have gotten ahold of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie and are threatening to release it on torrent sites unless Disney pays up, according to Bleeping Computer.

The movie, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is set to be released on May 26. Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed the demand at a town hall meeting in New York last Monday.

Not everyone is sure that this is a real threat, however. Some believe it could be a marketing ploy to drum up interest and demand for the upcoming film. A file was momentarily uploaded onto pirated-goods site The Pirate Bay with the name “Pirates of the Caribbean 2017” but it was likely a hoax or an attempt to spread malware.

Just last month a hacker known the Dark Overlord released the first ten episodes of the upcoming season of Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” if a ransom wasn’t paid. The hacker later claimed they had more titles they are ready to release if a proper ransom wasn’t paid. There is no word yet on whether the two instances are related.

Hot on the heels of the recent WannaCry ransomware attack, news of even more hacks and data protection subversions make it clear that more intensive measures need to be put in place to ensure data is secure.

WannaCry ransomware nears deadline and victims don’t pay up

The ransomware that hit hundreds of thousands of computers last week gave its victims seven days to pay up or lose their data forever. That deadline expired on Friday, May 19th, according to the New York Times.

“Even if you do pay, you won’t necessarily be able to open the files that are hit,” said Bolton Jiang, who has been fixing computers at a Shanghai electronics company for years. “There is no solution to it.”

As of last Friday, 300 bitcoin payments had been made, earning the hackers $95,000. This is a much smaller number early estimates in the tens to hundreds of millions forecast when the attack was first uncovered. However, many experts believe that these attackers won’t actually delete victims’ data, instead upping the ransom amount to get as much money as they possibly can.

Even though this attack didn’t earn its perpetrators a large sum of money, it is likely that widespread attacks will continue. Now that the NSA tools that made the attack so virulent have been released, even more cybercriminals will be able to hack into even more computers. If data protection strategies implemented by companies aren’t strengthened, even more data could be at risk.

First Windows XP patch released in 3 years in response to WannaCry

There might be a silver lining to this WannaCry ransomware attack in its ability to create awareness for and heighten the importance of data protection. In an unusual move, Microsoft released patches to close the WannaCry vulnerability in several operating systems for which it offers only limited support, including Windows 8, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. It’s the first XP patch to be released in three years, according to Computerworld. Mainstream support for Windows XP ended in 2014. Mainstream support for Windows Server 2003 ended in 2010.

"We are taking the highly unusual step of providing a security update for all customers to protect Windows platforms that are in custom support only, including Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003," said principal security group manager at Microsoft Security Response Center Phillip Misner.

This is the first time Microsoft has released a security update for a platform that has been retired as long as Windows XP.

"Given the potential impact to customers and their businesses, we made the decision to make the Security Update for platforms in custom support. This decision was made based on an assessment of this situation, with the principle of protecting our customer ecosystem overall, firmly in mind," Misner continued.

New blockchain partnership between Nasdaq and Citigroup

Nasdaq and Citigroup are working together to use blockchain technology to process payments and automate reconciliation in a new integrated payment solution they are creating, according to MarketWatch.

The two companies are working alongside Chain Inc. to merge Citigroup payment services with Nasdaq’s own blockchain platform. Nasdaq’s platform has previously been used for buying and selling private company shares.

Successful trial transactions have already taken place, according to a press release.

Some of the benefits of this partnership include direct access to global payments, increased operational efficiency, real-time visibility of payment transactions, and an easy transactional process.

"This new payment capability marks a milestone in the global financial sector and represents an important moment in the commercial application of blockchain technology. Through this effective integration of blockchain technology and global financial systems, we can realize greater operational transparency and ease of reconciliation, which can have profound implications for outdated administrative functions in the capital markets. We are excited about this accomplishment in collaboration with our partners, Citi and Chain, and are looking forward to continuing our work together to scale this offering,” said Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman.