Cyber attack 2017: Aussies urged to update anti-virus software

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Cyber security
People pose in front of a display showing the word 'cyber' in binary code, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica December 27, 2014. Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Aussies were advised to have their antivirus software updated in the wake of a cyber attack that hit businesses across the globe. Australian businesses were reportedly affected by the so-called ransomware, and the federal government is taking necessary precautions.

Cyber Security Minister Dan Tehan warned that there will always be threats of online attacks despite measures designed to heighten the country’s cyber security. "I cannot put my hand on my heart and say that means we are 100 percent cyber secure," he told reporters on Saturday, adding that technology and vulnerabilities change.

It is believed that the ransomware known as Wanna Decryptor was created when a powerful tool designed by the US National Security Agency fell into the wrong hands. West Australian police urged people to have their anti-virus software updated and ensure all significant data are backed up.

Dr Suelette Dreyfus, a cyber security expert at the University of Melbourne, told the Australian Associated Press that the self-replicating bug caused "chaos" at some institutions in Europe. She explained that Windows computers that do not possess the new security patches were susceptible to the ransomware, thus the importance of keeping software up-to-date.

Dreyfus said everyone that uses a laptop has to make sure that system is fully patched. "Because this would be nowhere near the international spread and depth of attack if people had run the updates that Microsoft had provided in March,” The Australian quotes her as saying.

The expert believes it is likely that some Australian organisations are affected by the cyber attack, but they allegedly opt to keep it a secret because they don't want to instil a lack of trust in their system. At least 16 British National Health Service organisations were hit by the attack. Computer networks of companies and municipalities from other countries were also affected.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that it is an international attack and that several countries and organisations have been affected. Cyber security firm Avast has revealed over 75,000 similar attacks took place in nearly 100 countries. Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan were hit the hardest. In the United States, delivery service FedEx was reportedly affected.

Aussie Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assured that the government was closely monitoring the situation. Treasurer Scott Morrison echoed the prime minister’s statement, saying Australian authorities are working with overseas officials to cease the cyber threat. “The government takes cyber security very, very seriously,” Daily Mail quotes Morrison as saying.

Read more: Gov't reveals cyber attack in Australian businesses is rising

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