How a Hong Kong group seeks to help city fight cyberattacks

Details on new website and Facebook page are available to users, following ransomware wave in May

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 September, 2017, 9:15pm

An increasing threat of cyberattacks in Hong Kong has prompted a government-backed body to provide free tools and resources to help businesses and the public guard against ransomware.

The Productivity Council’s Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre (HKCERT), together with major international IT and cybersecurity companies, recently rolled out free real-time anti-malware programs and tools on a new website and Facebook page.

The information includes links to free computer programs, reports on latest attacks, and free webinars. Details on other seminars hosted by various IT companies to combat ransomware are also available.

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Ransomware is a form of malware that allows hackers to encrypt files after unsuspecting users install malicious software on their devices by downloading and opening infected files or apps.

Victims are then forced to pay cash or bitcoin ransoms to unlock the files or have them returned. Bitcoin is a form of digital currency.

Prompt dissemination of ransomware intelligence and security advice can go a long way
Wilson Wong, Productivity Council

“As shown in the WannaCry ransomware attack in May this year, prompt dissemination of ransomware intelligence and security advice can go a long way to minimise the adverse impact of such attacks,” council general manager Wilson Wong said.

According to HKCERT, the malware was particularly intrusive as it required no action on the part of users. WannaCry actively scanned the internet for users who did not have the latest security updates on their computers.

In May, the WannaCry ransomware infected computers in 150 countries. The malware locked up data on affected computers and displayed a message in 28 languages demanding a ransom for restoration of the data.

Last year, there were 309 incidents of ransomware attacks in Hong Kong. In the first six months of 2017, there have been 140 cases – 40 of them involving WannaCry.

The May cyberattack lasted only a few days, but even after it ended, HKCERT suspected some 4,000 Hong Kong computers were still infected with WannaCry.

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Almost 90 per cent of computers worldwide run on the Microsoft Windows operating system. The technology giant is partnering with HKCERT to provide tools and training for the fight against ransomware.

Barry Kong, data crimes unit analyst for Microsoft Hong Kong, said it was essential to install the latest version of the operating system, including updates and patches.

“The most important thing is to update the software. Windows 10 is the most secure OS so companies should upgrade,” he added.

Free anti-malware tools are currently not available for smartphones through HKCERT, but they may be available at a later time, Wong said.