Connect with us

On May the 12th the world was hit by a cyber-attack of unprecedented proportions. 2016 marked a huge up tick in the levels of ransomware and other cyber-crimes but the WannaCry ransomware attack was on an unprecedented scale.

The attack began on Friday the 12th of May and has so far infected more than 260,000 computers in 150 countries with the software demanding ransom payments in bitcoin in 28 languages. The attack hit many notable organizations, including Britain’s National Health Service, the FedEx, Deutsche Bahn as well as crippling public and private organizations across Russia and Asia.

What is WannaCry?

The WannaCry (also known as WannaCrypt, WanaCrypt0r 2.0 or Wanna Decryptor) is a ransomware computer worm that targets the Windows Operating system. It seems likely that, WannaCry was spread using phising emails. Once WannaCry gets access to the network it uses the Eternal Blue exploit and DoublePulsar backdoor developed by the NSA to spread through the network on to computers that have not installed recent security updates. Older operating systems, such as XP were particularly vulnerable.

Once WannaCry gained access to the system it acted like typical Ransomware. It presented the victim with a notification that their computer has been encrypted and in order to access their files they would need to pay either $300 in three days of $600 in six days.

WannaCry attacks

The WannaCry attack showed users a message informing them that they had to pay in order to unlock their computers – credit securelist

The purpose of WannaCry is not entirely clear. The attack has generated comparatively few material gains for it’s perpetrators and its aim was indiscriminate. Which appears to rule out both political and financial motivations. Many observers have put the killswitch down to sloppy coding on the part of the attackers and left it at that. Perhaps the most compelling, and terrifying, theory is that this attack was a probe of our defenses. The attacker placed an easily found killswitch in to see how long it would take us to stop it so that they can target their attack for maximum damage.

There a possibility that WannaCry was developed by the North Korean supporting Lazarus Group who have been behind a number of other high profile attacks. However there is little direct evidence to pin the attack on them so it is difficult at this stage to figure out exactally who is behind the attacks. While the WannaCry virus shared much of the same code as previous Lazarus Group attacks it was far more indiscriminate, which does not fit with their previous methods.

What is the impact of the WannaCry attacks?

The attack caused chaos across the world, in particular it crippled the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) and affected a number of large private and public institutions across Russia and Asia. All in all Europol estimates that that around 200,000 computers were infected across 150 countries.

Despite the huge scale the attackers have not made much in the way of material gains. It is estimated that only around $60,000 has been paid to the attackers so far.

The attacks were stopped from spreading when a researcher, named MalwareTech, stumbled upon a killswitch hard coded into the malware. On a hunch, he registered a domain name for a DNS sinkhole that stopped the attack from spreading further. The ransomware would only encrypt a computer if it was unable to connect to this domain and thus the attack would not infect any more machines, although this didn’t help anybody already infected.

So, Who is to blame?

There is a lot of blame to go around here. This attack has highlighted inadequacies in our cyber-defences to a painfully obvious degree. In essence we were saved by a surprising killswitch and the actions of one security blogger. This might make a good plot for a TV show but it is hardly a comforting assessment of the state of the World’s Cyber-Security.

So, whose fault is this. Well, lets start with the National Security Agency. In April 2017 the “Shadow Brokers” stole a number of hacking tools from the NSA. One of these, EternalBlue, was key in facilitating Friday’s attacks. EternalBlue exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft’s implementation of the Server message Block (SMB) Protocol. This allows it to execute code on a targeted computer. Edward Snowden and Microsoft have both blamed the NSA, accusing them of stockpiling weapons, comparing EternalBlue to a “tomahawk missile”. The argument is that if the NSA had made Microsoft aware of the vulnerability when they found it, rather than when it was stolen, this situation could have been avoided.

Wannacry attack

The President of Microsoft compared the loss of EternalBlue with a Tomahawk missile being stolen – Credit politicoscope.

While the NSA is certainly at fault, Microsoft probably shouldn’t be so quick to point figures. The NSA was undoubtedly negligent but they did not create WannaCry. Rather the virus simply used their tools. Tools that exploit a vulnerability caused by Microsoft. While Microsoft, presumably acting on an NSA tip off, patched the exploit in March the virus still spread like wildfire.

The reason for this is down to the third party at fault. Us. When it comes to cyber-defence a single weak link can bring down an entire network and lets be honest, we’ve probably all been that weak link at least once in the past.

Windows may have rolled out an update but it is down to users to update it. In many cases there is a justified reason for not doing so. IT managers are wary of pushing forward updates as they can break complex IT systems in unforeseen ways and many companies only push forward updates every few months, meaning they wouldn’t have installed the patch yet. Many of us also just simply don’t update our systems out of laziness, or because we pirate the software and so don’t get regular updates.

On top of this, users with relatively low computer literacy are being asked to identify increasingly sophisticated attacks. The fact that you are relying on the same people who call IT when their computer is unplugged to be the first and last line of defense against ransom-ware is not exactly comforting.

So everybody is at fault, where do we go from here?

The WannaCry attacks have clearly unveiled some pretty major flaws in our cyber defenses. A combination of intelligence services stockpiling, rather than closing, exploits, Software producers not plugging those holes and users not acting on urgent updates and alerts have combined to form a perfect storm of vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities that hackers were able to exploit.

The attack clearly demonstrates that we desperately need a collective security policy, but is a “Geneva Convention for Cyberspace” as called for by Brad Smith the right answer? It would outlaw cyber-attacks and oblige security agencies to inform software developers of any holes in their system. This would prevent criminals from using them to attack users. That said, it would also stop security services from using them, which they will view as a demand that they unilaterally disarm. We could very well tell them to comply, but whether they will is another matter and given the track record of the intelligence services worldwide I would not hold my breath.

WannaCry attack

An infographic from microsoft explaining the terms of A Digital Geneva Convention – credit Microsoft

As we can’t rely on our intelligence services, the burden then falls on the software developers, users and cyber security companies. Cyber Security companies need to move towards data-sharing and accept that they can’t hide things from their competitors when information they have might well be in the public good. There are already positive examples that this is beginning to happen and the hope is that WannaCry will act as a much needed wake up call.

Despite the potential financial burden, software developers may be forced to accept that they have to keep providing security patches for older devices in order to plug holes that criminals can exploit. The other alternative would be to lock users out from using outdated Operating Systems but this move would likely just push people into pirated software.

This then brings us, to us, the users. The WannaCry attack was a far bigger threat to businesses than it was to individuals but the next attack might go the other way. IT managers and business owners need to come to terms with the fact that Cyber-security has to be taken seriously. Updates should be applied regularly and staff will need to be taught how to better identify suspicious emails and websites.

Ordinary users will have to get themselves into the habit of updating regularly. Either turn on automatic updates or put a reminder on your computer. There are a few things you can do to ensure that you are secure:

  • Make sure that any software you are using is still receiving security updates and if not then you might have to consider upgrading.

  • You should also stop using any pirated operating systems, they don’t receive updates and you don’t know if any malware came shipped with it. (If you can’t afford a new windows install, it could be worth looking at Linux, it’s free after-all)

  • Check incoming emails carefully, do not open attachments or links from anyone you do not trust and always double check the email address, phishing attacks often masquerade as official communication.

  • Take regular back-ups. This will not only protect you in case of unexpected computer failure but will also reduce the damage that an attack can cause you.

  • Under no circumstances should you pay the requested ransom. It will only further encourage attacks and there is no guarantee that your system will be unlocked again, you are relying on the goodwill of the same people who locked you out of your system. Do you really trust their word?

If the WannaCry attack has demonstrated anything it is that we all need to start taking our Cyber Security seriously. Governments, private companies and individuals all need to take their share of the blame and their share of the responsibility for ensuring this kind of attack never happens again.

If the theory that the WannaCry attack was a probe of our defenses was correct, then we will need to act fast. The next attack will not be so easy to stop and will probably cause even more damage.

You'll find me wandering around the Science sections mostly, excitedly waving my arms around while jumping up and down about the latest science and tech news. I am also occasionally found in the gaming section, trying to convince everyone else that linux is the future of the computer gaming.


5 Reasons You NEED To Play The Final Fantasy VIII Remaster




Final Fantasy VIII Remastered

After many years of fans begging Square Enix to remaster Final Fantasy VII, they finally listened and did just that. There were numerous excuses as to why the game’s re-release had lagged behind the re-releases of both VII and IX, with the most common excuse being that the game’s original code was lost years ago. However, the company made it happen and the game is finally available for modern audiences to play on modern hardware today. We’re going to give you 5 reasons why you should do just that.

First time available on modern hardware

As we’ve already said, this is the first time that the game is available on modern hardware. While the game originally launched for PS1 back in 1999, it later got a PC port in 2000. That means that is has been a whopping 19 years since a new version of the game has been available for purchase, and that wait was a brutal one. However, it is finally over and you can now play this classic game on PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch along with PC. If the lack of modern hardware support was stopping you from checking out, that excuse just got thrown out the window.

The visuals look better than ever

Thankfully, Square Enix did not just slap this port together quickly and throw it out there to shut everyone up. They did a terrific job of putting on a shiny new coat of paint for the game, with the character models in particular looking much better. While things like environment textures didn’t get quite the same amount of attention, this is nevertheless the best that the game has ever looked. It also helps that the game is simply beautiful from a design standpoint, with the game’s world being gorgeous to behold even though we’re dealing with the hardware limitations of 1999.

Quality of life improvements

While those who played the game 20 years ago will still be getting what is essentially the same experience, Square Enix did add some quality of life improvements to put it more in line with current JRPGs. These changes include the likes of increasing battle speed by 3 times, shutting off random encounters completely and even a cheat to give you max HP and limit breaks. While these may seem minor, these will go a long way to ease some of the tedium that many feel after some particularly long gaming sessions. Max HP and Limit Breaks will also make the incredibly tough Ultima and Omega Weapon boss fights a lot easier to deal with.

Triple Triad

The Final Fantasy series is known for having its fair share of enticing side quests and mini games, but there isn’t a single one that is as addicting as Triple Triad. The game is essentially a card game that is played on a 3×3 grid, and each card has a certain number on the top, bottom, left and right sides. You need to place your cards in a manner that the numbers on your cards are higher than your opponents, and seeing as your card can be attacked from four different sides this can be tricky. You’re able to challenge many different characters to a match throughout the course of the entire game, and doing so comes with plenty of nice rewards that will make your quest easier.

The game is awesome

While our previous points focused on specific elements of the game, this one is a simple fact that has been true since 1999: the game is awesome. Unfortunately, releasing immediately after Final Fantasy VII (a watershed moment for gaming) put it under a very cruel microscope, with many knee jerk reactions simply saying it “isn’t as good as VII.” However, in the years that have passed people have revisited the game, and the consensus has definitely changed. This adventure that Square created is unlike any other in the series, being host to an ambitious and bizarre plot filled with some of the best characters the series has ever seen. If you’ve played the game before then this is the perfect time to experience this masterpiece all over again, and if you haven’t then what are you waiting for?

Continue Reading


10 Huge Games Still Coming In 2019




10 Huge Games Still Coming 2019

2019 has been yet another good year for gaming so far, with several games releasing that will be big contenders for game of the year once the curtain closes. However, despite the year already being more than halfway over, there are still some huge titles on the horizon that are sure to make their own dents on the coming best-of lists. This article will list the 10 biggest games that are still coming in 2019.



A new game from Remedy Entertainment is always highly-anticipated, and Control is no different. The game is an action-adventure game in the same style as Alan Wake or Quantum Break, but with a supernatural twist. Players will control Jesse Faden, who possesses a variety of supernatural abilities like telekinesis, levitation and more. She will be using her abilities in order to defeat an enemy known only as the Hiss, which has corrupted reality. Control launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on August 27th.

Borderlands 3


It has been many years since the last game in the Borderlands series released, but the hiatus is finally coming to an end very soon. Those who have played previous games in the series will feel right at home with this game, as it’s once again a loot-driven FPS. The game will offer more zany characters and a charming and insane world to explore, all while dealing with new antagonists Troy and Tyreen Calypso along with their Children of the Vault cult. Borderlands 3 launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 13th, with a Google Stadia port release date being TBA.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint


Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon series is returning soon with Breakpoint, which will serve as a continuation of previous game Wildlands. The game is set in an open world environment called Aurora, which is a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean. Players will control Lieutenant Colonel Anthony “Nomad” Perryman, who is a special forces operative that was sent to the island to investigate a series of disturbances in the area. Breakpoint launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 4th, with a Google Stadia port coming in November.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare


Each new installment in the Call of Duty series is always huge, but Modern Warfare’s release marks a first for the long-running franchise. It will be the first game in the series that is reimagining of a previous game in the series, taking 2004’s original game and updating its mechanics and themes to match today’s world. The game will still have some of the beats that the first game had, but will also incorporate lots of surprises to make it a fresh experience. Modern Warfare launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 25th.

The Outer Worlds


Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds is one that will be very highly-anticipated for fans of Fallout: New Vegas, as this game serves as a sort of spiritual successor to that game. It will be an open world RPG that allows you to explore many unique areas crawling with plenty of deadly foes. Players will also be able to encounter and recruit NPCs as companions that have their own personal missions and stories to take part in. The Outer Worlds launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on October 25th, with a Switch port also being in the works.

Luigi’s Mansion 3


It seemed very unlikely that Luigi’s Mansion would become a recurring franchise for Nintendo following the original GameCube game, but here we are. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is coming to Switch, which also means it will be the first home console release since the original game back in 2003. This time the game is set in a haunted hotel rather than a mansion, and Luigi has some new tricks up his sleeves to take down all those ghosts. Luigi’s Mansion 3 will launch exclusively for Nintendo Switch on October 31st.

Death Stranding


If you’re looking for the most ambitious (and weirdest) game still coming in 2019, then look no further. Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding has perplexed gamers ever since its announcement, and each new trailer that releases just brings more and more questions to the table. It is Kojima’s first game since breaking up with Konami after the release of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phanton Pain (and the cancellation of Silent Hills), and it looks like Kojima has taken the newfound complete creative control to deliver something truly original. Death Stranding launches exclusively for PS4 on November 8th.

Pokemon Sword & Shield


At this point we all know what to expect from a new Pokemon game, and Sword and Shield seems poised to deliver even more cute creatures for players to capture and battle very soon. What sets Sword and Shield apart from its predecessors is that it will be the first home console release for the series, which is saying something considering the series has been around for over 20 years. Pokemon Sword & Shield launches exclusively for Switch on November 15th.

Shenmue III


If you’re a fan of Shenmue then nothing needs to be said for the inclusion of the upcoming third game on this list. Fans of the series have been waiting nearly two decades for a follow-up to the second game, and in just a couple of months that will finally be delivered to them. Brought to life thanks to an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, the game continues the adventure of protagonist Ryo Hazuki as he hunts down his father’s killer. Shenmue III will launch for PS4 and PC on November 19th.

DOOM Eternal


id Software’s DOOM 2016 was one of the best FPS games to come along in years, so it’s a no-brainer that the follow-up would be on this list. Eternal is set to offer yet another intense FPS campaign for players to plunge into, while also offering a multiplayer component that greatly improves upon the last game’s underwhelming multiplayer mode. There will also be twice as many demon types than there was in the last game, meaning that the chaos level just got that much higher. DOOM Eternal launches for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia and PC on November 22nd.

Continue Reading


5 Most Exciting Announcements From The Xbox E3 2019 Press Conference




Microsoft E3 2019

Microsoft’s Xbox E3 2019 Press Conference has officially come to an end, and with it came plenty of big announcements to get excited about. Some new games were announced, whereas previously-announced games got new footage and/or release dates. In this article we’ve narrowed it all down to the 5 most exciting announcements.

New Xbox “Project Scarlett” Coming Holiday 2020

We’ve known for a while now that a new Xbox was in the works, but now we know when to expect it. Microsoft’s fourth console (which hopefully has a better official name than Xbox One did) will be a big step up from the previous console. Things like much faster load times, an AMD Processor that is four times more powerful than the Xbox One X, 8K Resolution and 120 FPS were all mentioned. A price and exact release date weren’t mentioned. It will also be launching with…

Halo Infinite Coming Holiday 2020, Launching On Both Xbox One and Project Scarlett

The wait for the next Halo game has been longer than ever before for series fans, and the announcement at E3 revealed that the wait will continue. Halo Infinite will not be launching until Holiday 2020, meaning it will have been 5 years since the previous game released with Halo 5. It will also be launching on Xbox One and Project Scarlett, meaning the new console will have a big launch title for fans to get pumped about.

Cyberpunk 2077 Coming April 2020, Stars Keanu Reeves

It’s hard to pick a game that people have been more excited about than Cyberpunk 2077, and after Microsoft’s press conference we’re even more excited. Not only is it coming in April of next year, but Keanu Reeves himself will be playing a “key” role in the game. Everything shown from the game has looked great so far, so hopefully it all pans out and we have another classic from CD Projekt RED come April 2020.

FromSoftware and George R.R. Martin Collaboration Elden Ring Announced

This one was actually leaked prior to the presentation, but Dark Souls developer FromSoftware and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin are collaborating on a new game. The game is called Elden Ring, and it will be a departure from the developer’s most recent games as it will be open world. Very little information on the game is known at this point, as it is still in the early stages of development.

Phantasy Star Online 2 Is Coming West

It took a very long time, but the popular MMORPG is finally coming west. The game is coming to Xbox One in a free-to-play form in Spring 2020, so the wait won’t be that much longer. “There will be no limitations on game experiences,”says Sega, because they want to “provide all players with a fair and exciting experience.”

Continue Reading