Botswana hit by worldwide cyber attack
By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone – A computer virus by the name WannaCry that has hit over 150 countries since last Friday has invaded Botswana, leading to a shutdown of government services.
A statement from the country’s Ministry of Transport and Communications informed members of the public about the virus, which began spreading widely across the world on May 12, 2017.
The ministry said the government is taking the necessary precautionary steps to secure all systems whose integrity can be adversely affected.
“These steps will mean that certain services, which are offered to the public through government offices, will not be available. These include but are not limited to immigration and passport control services, court records management system,” the ministry said.
It further warned the general public and the business community to take the necessary steps to ensure that apart from re-organising their trips and diaries, their computer networks are secure.
Media reports show that thus far 200,000 victims in 150 countries across the world have been affected by the WannaCry virus.
The ministry also warned people not to give in to demands for the payment of ransom to the hackers.
Instead one should immediately disconnect the affected computer from the network and contact the relevant IT offices or specialist in their respective organisations, the ministry advised.
The release also advised members of the public to contact the police to report any suspicions or to provide any other assistance regarding unsolicited email”.
The ministry promised to provide more updates but the business community and the general public is encouraged to look out and protect its IT infrastructure.
Computer security experts reportedly assured individual computer users who have kept their PC operating systems updated that they are relatively safe.
They advised those whose networks have been effectively shut down by the ransomware attack not to make the payment demanded — the equivalent of $300, paid in the digital currency bitcoin, delivered to a likely untraceable destination that consists merely of a lengthy string of letters and numbers.
However, the authors of the “WannaCry” ransomware attack told their victims the amount they must pay would double if they did not comply within three days of the original infection — by Monday, in most cases. And the hackers warned that they would delete all files on infected systems if no payment was received within seven days.
Avast, an international security software firm that claims it has 400 million users worldwide, said the ransomware attacks rose rapidly last Saturday to a peak of 57,000 detected intrusions.
Avast, which was founded in 1988 by two Czech researchers, said the largest number of attacks appeared to be aimed at Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan, but that major institutions in many other countries were affected.
Computer security experts are quoted as saying that the current attack could have been much worse but for the quick action of a young researcher in Britain who discovered a vulnerability in the ransomware itself, known as WanaCryptor 2.0.
Reports indicate that Microsoft distributed a “fix” for the software vulnerability two months ago, but not all computer users and networks worldwide had yet made that update and thus were highly vulnerable.
And many computer networks, particularly those in less developed parts of the world, still use an older version of Microsoft software, Windows XP, that the company no longer updates.
The ministry stated that some steps that could be considered include, having the latest software updates, maintaining up to date offline backup of their data, keeping their security software up to date and being wary of unexpected emails especially if they contain links or attachments.