Category: Virus

Tonight, I Wanna Cry

There is a country song that goes:

I’ve never been the kind to ever let my feelings show,
And I thought that being strong meant never losin’ your self control
But I’m just drunk enough, to let go of my pain,
To hell with my pride, let it fall like rain, from my eyes,
Tonight I wanna cry.

And cry they did. Almost 75,000 and counting, over 99 countries hit by one of the largest ransomware attacks of all time, “WannaCry” and the other Wanna* variants.

Wannacry was released on the 12th of May 2017. The irony of it all was that we were invited as one of the speakers in a Ransomware event in Putrajaya under Panda Security the day before and we were just warning those in attendance that the next wave of ransomware is due to hit and within 24 hours, bam, we have Wannacry. In Malaysia, there seems to be already infection, thanks to the guys at

There have been reports of large telecommunication companies, banks and telcos are being affected. Tens of thousands of networks worldwide have been hit and the attacks do not appear to be targeted to any specific region or industry. Once infected, victims are asked to pay approximately $300 by Bitcoin. For the curious, you can check

This means there is around 5.8348 bitcoins paid already to this. Which translates to around RM46,000 paid so far – which isn’t so much if you think the average of ransom payment is around RM10,000 – RM11,000 for other ransoms.

So what is this?

Wannacry is using the file extension .wncry, and it also deletes the Shadow Copies (which is normal for ransomwares, like Locky) which is a technology introduced into the Microsoft platforms as far back as Windows XP and Windows Vista as the Volume Shadow Copy service. This means that even backup copies produced by this service, such as Windows Backup and System Restore will be screwed. That’s mean. Here is the command executed.

cmd.exe /c vssadmin delete shadows /all /quiet & wmic shadowcopy delete & bcdedit /set {default} bootstatuspolicy ignoreallfailures & bcdedit /set {default} recoveryenabled no & wbadmin delete catalog -quiet (PID: 2292)

The following file is also created in the affected systems: @Please_Read_Me@.txt

How it gets in is just like any other ransomware: email either phishing or spear phshing. Basically, don’t click on any email attachments that are suspicious! It’s easier said than done, especially if you see one coming in stating that you are behind in your payments for your credit card. Resist the urge. One of the things to check on email:

The return email – most phishing doesn’t even attempt to spoof their email, and you will get emails coming from strange domains like maaybank or clmbclicks. Bad language is also a hallmark of a phishing email. “All your base are belong to us” type of english. Anyone asking for passwords, or click on a link etc is nonsense. Don’t click on email links. Don’t click on the attachments, above all.

Back to Wannacry. It exploits a known Microsoft Windows vulnerability to spread. This vulnerability was released as part of the Shadow Brokers leaks back in April. It hits the SMB (Server Message Block) – some people pronounce it as SAMBA, which technically is not so correct, as SAMBA is the SMB implementation on Linux. It basically allows the sharing of files and printers in networked environment. Which means, if one gets infected, the infection spreads through network shares even to systems without connectivity to the internet.

Microsoft released a patch for MS17-010 on March 14th 2017. Obviously, a lot of systems – especially those in healthcare still runs on Windows XP. The case has been deemed so serious that Microsoft has taken the step to release patches for systems already dead like XP! This shows how unusually dangerous this ransomware is.

OK, so if you have been hit, what do you do?

Well, you can pay. Around 41 transactions have been made so you could make the number, but don’t expect too much out of it. In fact, we probably do not recommend this course of action. You need to remove Wannacry and there are plenty of sites that gives details on that. The problem with ransomware is not so much of removing it, its a matter of recovering your files. Here’s a site you can check if there is a decryptor available:

Please be careful – some so called ‘decryptors’ are disguised as further malware and gets you a double whammy of sorts, so you need to ensure these are proper tools and not something you download from torrent.

As an advisory to all our clients, especially PCI-DSS here’s what you can do to protect yourself:


Now we see how important it is to patch your systems. Most PCI clients struggle on this and the examples can come from: Our servers are not connected to the internet, or If I patch, my application breaks. Well, if your application breaks then you need to get a warranty from your developers or get them to upgrade and improve.

b) Backup

While PCI doesn’t really focus much on backup or BCP (after all PCI’s interest is in the confidentiality of credit card and not the availability of your business) – it’s still good practice to backup your system. And not just online as ransomware hits shadow copies firstly – but offline backup and ensure your restoration has been tested. Remember those grandfather-father-son backup scheme you learnt in college and university? Yup, it can be applied.

c) Antivirus and Antimalware Updates

While it’s known Antivirus is missing a chunk of malware out there, it’s still for many systems the last line of defence and most vendors have released protection signatures for the ransomware so get it updated. It’s like having the final militia protecting against an invasion. It will probably not hold out forever, but at least it buys your administrators some time.

d) Remove SMB v1 support,-smbv2,-and-smbv3-in-windows-vista,-windows-server-2008,-windows-7,-windows-server-2008-r2,-windows-8,-and-windows-server-2012

Simply, for Windows 8 for instance, you need to run Powershell in administrator mode and then just issue

Set-SmbServerConfiguration -EnableSMB1Protocol $false

to disable SMBv1

e) Network segmentation

While this is helpful, it still doesn’t save everyone. Segmentation helps because it isolates computers. Vector of attacks usually comes into the access network (where end users access) and if you segment this from the critical systems, you will need the malware to traverse through your firewall or a filtering device in between which leads us to:

f) IDS, SIEM, IPS or any protection systems you have!

If you don’t have any IDS, IPS or SIEM deployed in your environment, it’s time you get one and this is a good argument for your business budget. IDS/IPS are usually available features in most firewalls these days, so if you segregate your networks, you can then enable these features and it should detect or prevent malware coming into your critical environment.

SIEM is critical. Security Information and Event Management systems have been around since the dawn of time but most companies avoid these due to costs, ever relying on the good old free syslog services. No, not allowed anymore, as far as PCI is concerned. We need more visibility over these logs, malicious traffic and even outgoing traffic to check if there is any communications with a command and control (C&C) server, which is the normal operations of these ransomware. SIEM these days are also no longer that expensive, with a Gartner SIEM like Alienvault starting off at a little over RM25K to get it up and running. We recently deployed a very large SIEM deployment over AWS cloud and on-premise on a major airlines with a fraction of the cost compared to traditional SIEM deployments.

There you have it. WannaCry is a very serious outbreak and we will be monitoring this system and also making our visits to our clients to give a short talk and description over it. If you have any questions over this, or on PCI-DSS or SIEM, drop us a note at

Stay safe!

Guarding Yourself From Internet Intrusions

I generally store all my customers’ project data in folders and back them up on a weekly basis. May was crazy as it was the first time for everyone filing their GST with Customs Malaysia. To cut to the story, I was so busy that I didn’t do any backups for three weeks in a row. Guess what? I got attacked! An extremely bad case of internet intrusion that made me cried tears of anguish.
I was ‘googling’ for something that I was researching on and went into a website that looked ‘harmless’. My laptop was on Norton Antivirus Program. No alert or red flag went up but 10 minutes later, I couldn’t access any of Excel or Word docs. There was an additional notepad document in each of my folders. I knew I’ve been attacked right away.

I opened the notepad to read the message – I need to know what virus I’ve been infected with to decide what my next move should be.

So, it’s Cryptowall 3.0. It’s one of the newer versions of ransomware and so far, no available ‘key’ available to decrypt. There are many others out there that have been decrypted by helpful forum-ers but not Cryptowall 3.0. They want money before my files can be decrypted. There’s never been proven that if you pay them, they would give you the key to decrypt the files and it is my belief that we should never encourage these people to bribe and threaten in this manner.

Rather than crying over spilt milk, time for me to assess how to restore and clean my laptop. This is what I did.

1) Restore
Restore from my backups that were three weeks’ ago. Unfortunately, the work that I had done after my last back-ups was a lot. Not good. However, Microsoft does have feature that is very useful – ‘Restore Previous Version’
If you right-click on each folder, there is an option to select the restoration date of your folders. It is a life saver in many ways – you may not get your latest but it saves you tons of hours of trying to figure out what you done on your documents for the past three weeks – in my case. So, it was an ardous task of right-clicking on ALL my folders and restoring them to the so-called ‘latest’ version.

2) Anti-virus program re-assessment
Many times, it could be our own fault that we don’t update the latest virus update. In my case, it is auto-updated. So, go figure. I checked that I was still on auto-update mode for the program but the virus attacked anyway. We need to know that t here are no virus-proof programs. Hackers come up with new viruses on a daily basis. If you visit AlienVault’s OpenTreatExchange (OTX) forum; the viral list grows everyday. It is to our own benefit to be preventive rather than reactive when it comes to being on the alert and to ensure that we have a reasonable Internet Security Application in place of work.

3) Cleaning up my laptop
For those not in the know, there many forums available for poor ‘infected’ souls like us, who are willing to help clean up and make sure our laptops are running back in tip-top condition. It would be very foolish ( I repeat, foolish) to not do a proper clean-up after being infected as you may risk your files being encrypted again. Using Norton to clean-up is probably the bare minimum you should do; however, I wanted to be very sure. Speaking of forums, I have always gone to two forums which has helped me answer questions about all sorts of stuff about Internet Security & etc.
In my case, I decided to go to whatthetech. If you are a registered user of any of these forums, they will go through each step to help you. You can view my thread on how the clean-up process went from the link I’ve provided. No obligation to pay but donations are most welcomed by the folks that dedicate their time on the forums. (This article is not paid or asked by whatthetech).

4) Some things to take note
• Avoid P2P file sharing programmes; they are a security risk which can make your  computer susceptible to malware. File sharing networks are thoroughly infested with malware – worms, backdoor Trojans, IRCBots, and rootkits propagate via P2P file sharing networks, gaming, and underground sites. Users visiting such pages
may see innocuous-looking banner ads containing code which can trigger pop-up ads and malicious Flash ads that install malware. The best way to reduce the risk of infection is to avoid these types of web sites and P2P programmes
• Registry cleaners and optimization tools that claim to speed up your computer should be avoided, and are potentially dangerous. By running a registry cleaner you risk rendering your machine unbootable.
• Personal Data Sharing: Wild Tangent Games – Did you know that if you own an ACER laptop/desktop, Wild Tangent Games are PRE-INSTALLED? Apparently, ACER has a partnership with them. What you need to know is:-
The privacy policy of Wild Tangent Games; by default, will indicate that you had agree to advertisements by WildTangent, third parties and brand studies whereby you had allowed WildTangent Games to collect certain personal information.
This was discovered by whatthetech consultant that was helping me. So, if you own an ACER laptop, beware and uninstall all Wild Tangent Games. [Check out my piece about Personal Data and PDPA Malaysia –]

5) Back-up Frequently
Back-up, Back-up, Back-up. I cannot emphasize the importance of this exercise. Back-up at least once a week; especially if you have done a lot of work that week. You may choose to back-up your personal and work items separately in terms of frequency, but back-up all your precious memories and work.
My viral attack drama ends here. I certainly do not wish this drama on anyone.

Be SAFE!!!

For Internet Security Applications advisory or PDPA training, drop us an email at or contact us at +603 6203 1888.

by Agnes Yew, PKFAE Project Manager

The IOT (Internet of Things) : My Personal Experience



Unless you have been living in a cave or on a secluded island without internet connection, you may have come across the term ‘Internet of Things’ or IoT. According to Gartner, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.”

Living in an era where we have easy access to information at the tip of our fingers is now taken for granted. Going out of your home without your smart phone is absolutely unthinkable – well, at least for me. I can be connected with my friends & family members anytime and anywhere – it can’t get better than that right? Well, let’s re-think this carefully.

I am a huge fan of Strava application. This mobile application uses GPS and mobile data to track your activity (be it cycling or running) – it tracks your mileage, exercise effort level (wattage), time taken to complete the activity and then, further provides data on your ranking against other Strava users on the same activity/route. As I cycle and run competitively as a ‘hobby’, Strava is a great way for me to track my improvements and also pit myself against my friends to be the Queen Of Mountain of a certain mountain anywhere in the world. Awesome! – well, maybe….

The great thing with Strava is that it is connected to Facebook. In fact, if you use your Garmin to track your activity, you can set up your Garmin to connect seamlessly to Strava on every activity tracked on Garmin. Notice the word I’ve used here: SEAMLESSLY. Yes, it is that easy. Friends on Facebook are able to know where I was or where I am currently at based on my post through Strava.  Now, my friends can like my activity and comment as well. Let’s just say that a friend of my Facebook friend intends to track me and know my current whereabouts, s/he can definitely find all that information via Facebook. If s/he intends to break-in to my home (assuming s/he knows where I live), can do so as well – because I am not at home – I’m still cycling back to my house. Dangerous? Am I inviting trouble? You bet! The internet of things have enabled different types of devices to be connected seamlessly and we love that; however, have we ever stopped to think of the danger that we’re opening ourselves up to? It doesn’t take much to be information technology savvy to track a person’s whereabouts.

We love to tell our Facebook friends where we are at by posting “Agnes Yew checked in at Mid Valley” or “Agnes Yew checked in at Madam Kwan, Mid Valley City”. Have you ever stopped to think that we’re providing information to people on our whereabouts willingly and this could be used to our disadvantage?

Time to stop and think…

Data Breach
Ashley Madison was recently hacked and it was let out that the hackers had access to its customer database and have posted the information on a public website for all to see. Ashley Madison is a discreet website which allows their customers to hook up with other folks who are interested in dabbling in a little fun outside the marriage bed. If you were a registered customer (married or attached) of Ashley Madison, you’ll be jumping or maybe peeing in your pants as the list of customers are now in the hands of hackers and shared on a public website.

Personal data is very much valued by consumer marketing companies and anyone who has access to a database has the upper hand to sell that information. I’ve been bombarded with these annoying SMS(es) on properties going on sale and what not every day. Yes, every day. I have to add these numbers under SPAM. It’s annoying as I don’t know where and how they got my mobile number. It could be when I got on the internet and signed up for some newsletter and I did not read the fine print and,or, I did not un-check a box to unsubscribe.

The Personal Data Protection Act in Malaysia was gazetted in 2010 and has been in enforcement from April 2013 on-wards. PDPA is supposed to protect consumers whereby companies holding our personal data are obligated to set up policies and a structured framework to ensure that the data is stored safely and not be leaked out. In my opinion, Malaysia is still in its infancy in comparison to US or EU, in terms setting up a stringent DPA (Data Protection Act) framework. Companies are not investing in being PDPA compliant unless they are required to by the Ministry. At the moment, the Finance, Telecommunications and health industry players are required to be PDPA compliant.

As a Malaysian consumer, we have every right to be concerned if companies managing our personal data are not enforcing a certain measure of security to ensure that our data is safely kept. Companies in Europe and US are willing to invest huge dollars in a Security Information Event Management (SIEM) solution to manage internet threat intrusions. At the moment, the Multimedia and Communication Ministry has not published any data on companies in Malaysia that are allocating budgets for SIEM or some sort of Internet Security application.
Time to stop and think….

How to Be Safe
I want to be safe. I want my family members to be safe as well. What measures am I taking to make sure that only people I want to know about me, know about me?
• I and my family members do not post our actual profile pictures on Watsapp, LINE and Facebook.
• I clean up my friends’ list in Facebook every three months. ‘Friend of Friends’ will be deleted.
• I read and uncheck boxes when I sign up for newsletter/etc. online. I read the fine print.
• I do not post my Strava activity until I get home – Announcing that I am Queen of Mountain can wait.
• I do not ‘check in’ to any location using Facebook. Yes, I may miss getting some discounts from that restaurant or shop by not checking in but I really don’t think it is worth letting people know where I am at.
• I block all sms’ numbers that are marketing in nature and park them under SPAM.

Different folks may have different appetites of risk tolerance towards being bombarded by SPAM or wanting to let the world know what they are doing or where they are at. The effort level you put into ensuring that you and your family members are safe is a choice and for me, is a very important choice.
Stop and think…..

For PDPA Training/Advisory or Internet Security Applications, drop us an email at or contact us at +603 6203 1888.

by Agnes Yew, PKFAE Project Manager

Good Grief, Another Virus?

Of all the most useless, time wasting activity that IT spends its life at is removing viruses from corporate systems and networks. It’s a mind boggling, grief stricken task for any IT administrator to go through, especially when the virus is so embedded into the network system, that it is a losing battle to sanitise the company. Most IT admin prefer lobotomy than to go through this thankless task.

We don’t usually clean viruses and worms for our clients, but at times end up doing it. It takes a lot of time, and we usually diagnose on the severity and the spread. In some cases we recommend a low-level format on the drive and reinstall new. But most worms now reside on the network and even if we clean or reinstall new, sooner or later, it gets sick again. The only way is to do an overall purge, meaning, every single desktop needs to be scanned and disinfected.

We’ve been helping out a client on this, and basically, the haphazard sharing of files and such has caused unmitigated disaster in the form of autorun.inf files propagating through the systems via shares, and then auto loading the payload. One of the mischievious things this virus does is to hide all the files so that we think that everything is deleted.

It’s a losing battle. In our previous battles with viruses, we decided to euthanise most of the old laptops that had viruses and buy new sets, reformat and reload our servers. We even moved our office physically, and set fire to our old office, watching all 22 floors go down in a blaze of glory. Of course not. It’s arson. And it’s illegal. But we did move office, because our rent got too high. Landlords are also another form of virus at times, but that’s another story.

Anyway, the term prevention is better than cure applies to viruses in IT terms as well as in health terms. The best way is not to get sick. And here are some practices for companies:

1. Get a good antivirus. Not one of those free AVG or whatever. A paid one. Kaspersky, Norton, we don’t care. Most of them are more or less the same, and works on most virus.

2. Update your OS. I hate to do it, because Windows releases updates like crazy, but we bought windows and agreed to be part of the guinea pigs to fix their systems so….

3. Host firewall. Your computer should have a firewall. Get one.

4. IT admins shouldn’t give admin rights to normal users. It’s like giving the keys to Candyland to a kid.

5. Secure your perimeter. This means you are at war. Don’t expose yourself to the internet, secure all systems that faces the internet.

6. Control your DNS. Most viruses infect your DNS, force you to a website, download the payload and execute. In PKF, we firewalled all DNS requests out (even Google ones), except to the approved DNSes we have. So if someone contacts a rogue DNS, it’s blocked.

7. Control your internet access. Most users have no idea that isn’t a site to adopt cute kittens. Kill it. Get a webfilter tool and make sure your policies are pushed out to all desktops/laptops with internet access.

8. Educate your people. People are the weakest link to corporate security. Teach them that they are not supposed to click on strange links on emails, accept any file transfers from skype, open attachments, or engage in Professor Muzazoagabe from Nigeria who wants to pay them a million Euros, but require 1000USD to release the funds.

9. Use strong passwords. No, Iloveyou is not a strong password. Neither is 1234, or password123.

10. Document and have policies. Countless companies fail to have proper policies to address issues like this, and users are not govern in how they are supposed to conduct themselves.

11. Monitor! The best prevention is to rabidly monitor your systems and network as well as software on devices. Have a proper asset listing, software management system and patch management system.

12. Finally, and we’re not selling here: Do your IT audits and Penetration testing! It’s like saying I don’t need to go for a health checkup since I’m fine. By the time you are not fine, it’s too late.

Drop us an email if you need more information on how to stay well, or get well!

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