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Cybersecurity

Beijing warns computer users across country over massive ‘Petya’ cyberattack

Ukraine central bank, Russian oil giant hit by ransomware, but harm in Asia appears limited

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 12:20am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 1:00pm

Beijing has warned computer users across the country to guard against a massive cyberattack spreading around the globe, but the damage from the “Petya” ­ransomware virus in Asia ­appeared to be limited on Wednesday.

It has hit Ukraine’s central bank, Russian oil giant Rosneft and British advertising firm WPP, among others, demanding US$300 (HK$2,340) in bitcoin as ransom payment.

Petya has characteristics similar to the faster and more disruptive Wannacry virus that infected 300,000 computers last month.

Cyber attack hits Asia: chocolate factory and container port operators among victims

While China has yet to be hit by Petya, the nation’s internet ­regulator and Beijing authorities jointly issued a notice warning citizens and institutions to stay alert, take preventive measures and fix network loopholes.

Hong Kong’s Computer Security Incident Coordination Centre said it had not received any reports of local victims by last night. “Drawing from experience of WannaCry recently, the government is much better prepared this time,” innovation and technology minister Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung said, citing efforts to educate people on cyberattacks.

“Though the overall risk of Hong Kong users succumbing to the attack may not be as high as WannaCry attack last time, we will stay vigilant and guard against any ransomware attack.”

A source said Hong Kong staff at Ogilvy, a major public relations firm under WPP, were asked to work from home as a precautionary measure.

The overall risk of Hong Kong users succumbing to the attack may not be as high as WannaCry attack last time
Nicholas Yang, technology minister

The city’s cybersecurity watchdog reissued its advice that Windows computer users, if they had not followed protection advice after the previous Wannacry attack, should install the latest Windows security patch for computers, install robust anti-virus protection, avoid opening suspicious or unfamiliar weblinks or email attachments, and have offline data backup protection.

International security researchers yesterday were said to have figured out a “vaccine” to stop the attack. There was also speculation that the perpetrators could be making a political statement or planning a bigger attack.

“How come the US and Europe had trouble and this area of the world was quiet?” asked Wilson Wong Ka-wai, IT general manager of the Productivity Council. “This attack, we believe, the hacker had some specific country targets and was not focused on Asia.”

Tony Lee Ho-yin, head of consulting at Trend Micro, which protects 1,200 large enterprises locally, said risks to users still existed even if a particular security loophole was fixed after the Wannacry attack last month.

“With one month’s preparation to update the security infrastructure, most people are searching for information about how to block the virus and why they should block it, but no one is asking for help to decrypt an infected machine, so that is a good thing for Hong Kong,” Lee said.