The world is reeling in the aftermath of the latest massive cyberattack. Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected with WannaCry ransomware in over 150 countries worldwide over the weekend.
The criminals behind this attack based the WannaCry ransomware on a National Security Agency (NSA) exploit that was leaked earlier this year. Now, another leaked NSA tool is being used by cybercriminals to create more havoc.
How leaked NSA hacking tools are wreaking havoc worldwide
In April, a group known as Shadow Brokers leaked NSA tools that were used to attack and break into Windows computers. Most of the leaked exploits are said to use zero-day vulnerabilities, previously unknown software exploits used by hackers before the software makers are aware of them. Criminals used the NSA's leaked EternalBlue vulnerability to attack Windows machines with WannaCry ransomware.
The latest NSA tool to be used by criminals is dubbed EsteemAudit. It exploits a flaw in Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol in Windows XP and Windows 2003 operating systems. The vulnerability allows cybercriminals to install and execute malicious code on infected gadgets. So another massive cyberattack is most likely coming.
Microsoft no longer supports Windows 2003 or Windows XP, so anyone using those operating systems is at serious risk. Microsoft released a patch for all of its operating systems, including those no longer supported, to fix the EternalBlue flaw. However, as of now, there is no patch for these older operating systems for the EsteemAudit vulnerability. Windows 7 and newer operating systems are not affected by the EsteemAudit flaw according to Microsoft.
How to protect your Windows machines
Whenever Microsoft learns of vulnerabilities with its operating systems (OS) it releases a Security Update. That's why it is critical that you keep your Windows OS up to date.
Most Windows machines are set to download and install updates automatically by default. If you haven't changed your automatic update settings then you should be fine.
But if you want to check, here's how:
On Windows 10, click Start (Windows logo), choose "Settings," select "Update & Security," then on the "Windows Update" section, click on "Advanced Options." (Note: the "Windows Update" section is also handy for showing you updates that are currently being downloaded or applied.) Under "Advanced Options," just make sure the drop down box is set to "Automatic."