WannaCry Ransomware Kill Switch Thwarts Spread of Malware

Today’s topics include the discovery of a kill switch for the WannaCry ransomware exploit, President Trump’s executive order on cyber-security, Sprint’s effort to restart merger talks with T-Mobile and Microsoft’s  Azure DocumentDB successor, Azure Cosmos DB.

In the last week the WannaCry ransomware worm has been a major source of concern for organizations around the world. However, the risk has been mitigated somewhat, thanks to the triggering of a kill switch and an updated Microsoft patch. Microsoft’s original March 14 MS17-010 advisory patched the flaw, but not within older systems.

An update has since extended that patch to Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003. In addition to the patch, a UK researcher known publicly only as "MalwareTech" is being credited with discovering a “kill switch” that may have stalled the advance of the ransomware worm.

According to European police agency Europol, the WannaCry attack has impacted more than 200,000 victims across 150 countries.

Security industry experts are calling the Trump administration’s long-awaited executive order on cyber-security, which was released on May 11, just a “plan of a plan.”

The order asks both civilian and military agencies to conduct security reviews and to recommend future steps to secure the United States’ infrastructure, networks and data.

All agencies will have a 60-day deadline to conduct reviews of vulnerabilities and adversaries, and the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security will oversee the reviews. Security experts call the executive order straightforward but lacking in substance, with unrealistic deadlines for reviews and few proactive initiatives.

Sprint hopes to return to the bargaining table to hammer out a merger deal with T-Mobile, two years after merger discussions ended amid criticism from U.S. regulators. 

Masayoshi Son, the chairman of Sprint's parent company, SoftBank Group, raised the idea of restarting merger talks in a discussion with reporters in Tokyo on May 10. In response to the news, stocks for both companies rose.

Investors are resting their hopes on the possibility that looser regulations under the Trump administration will allow a merger to proceed. Son believes the merger is critical to both companies’ competitive futures in a wireless market dominated by Verizon and AT&T.

During its Build developer conference last week, Microsoft announced a successor to its Azure DocumentDB NoSQL service, called Azure Cosmos DB. Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of Microsoft Data Group, called Azure Cosmos DB "the industry's first globally-distributed, multi-model database service," in a May 10 blog post.

He added that “Azure Cosmos DB was built from the ground up with global distribution and horizontal scale at its core—it offers turn-key global distribution across any number of Azure regions by transparently scaling and distributing your data wherever your users are, worldwide."

The database supports multiple query APIs and data models, and it has been tuned to offer fast queries. Essentially, Azure Cosmos DB will enable developers to deploy always-on, planet-scale apps, Microsoft claims.

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