New Delhi, May 15: Demonetisation woes revisited Indians on Monday in form of WannaCry Ransomware after Reserve Bank of India (RBI) advised all banks to start the ATM operations only after software update in the light of malware attack. Though there were no reports of financial institutions in India being hit by WannaCry Ransomware, the authorities concerned are leaving anything to chance. The cyber attack also brings focus back on data security after Aadhaar details of a large number of Indians found their way on websites.
Banking in India was limping back to normalcy after November 8 demonetisation but WannaCry Ransomware once again derailed all financial operations across the nation. Even in April there were reports of currency note shortage from many parts of the country after a long week-end that saw ATMs running dry within couple of hours. The decision of the banks to restrict the number of free ATM transactions every month did not help the situation either. The RBI has now directed banks to operate their ATMs only after the installed computer systems have received a special Windows update to protect them from WannaCry ransomware. The directive comes in the wake of the ‘WannaCry’ cyber attack that is spreading like wildfire across the globe since Friday.
The WannaCry program gets into your computer, either by clicking on the wrong thing or downloading the wrong thing and then encrypts your files and demands payment in bitcoin in order to regain access. Software giant Microsoft was quoted by BBC saying that the recent cyber attack that has hit over 150 countries in the last week should be considered as a “wake-up call”. Users have been cautioned for not opening attachments or click on links that they did not trust.
In a country like India, about 60 percent of the 2.25 lakh ATMs run on Windows XP, an operating software. The ATM machines mostly run on Windows software and are extremely vulnerable to the cyber attack. “RBI has asked banks to update specific Windows patches on ATMs urgently and not to operate ATM machines unless updates are in place,” a public sector bank official was quoted by the Economic Times.
The linking if Aadhar card to bank accounts increased the threat at the surface. A report by Financial Express quoted Pradipto Chakrabarty, Regional Director, CompTIA India saying that since the user’s bank account is linked with his Aadhaar number, the ransomware can potentially lock down the account and make it unusable unless a ransom is paid.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has issued a statement informing that the company has developed and released a special update for Windows XP. It also mentioned that this particular version of its operating system is no longer serviced by the company. The bitcoin wallets linked to the ransomware saw transactions worth $34,300 indicating that a small percentage of affected users were paying the ransom money, TOI reported.
If the case of ATMs was to be taken, there is no data stored in the machine and neither is there storage of any kind that will block transactions. Manohar Bhoi, President at Electronic Payments and Services was quoted by TOI saying that even if a machine were to get affected it can be reformatted and put to use immediately. Electronic Payments and Services is a management services firm that handles ATMs for public sector banks. Bhoi further said that this can be done remotely and usually the vendors run their tests on the patch before an update. The WannaCry attack began on Friday night with thousands of ransomware attacks on computers in over 100 countries, including India. Till now, 16 hospitals in England, the Interior Ministry of Russia has been a victim of the malicious ransomware software. Meanwhile, Telefonica in Spain, FedEx USA and Academic Institutes in China have also fallen a prey to Ransomware.