18 February 2019
Police are investigating 17 cases of ransomware attacks in Hong Kong, including 15 in a single day alone. Photos: Bloomberg, Facebook/HK Police
Police are investigating 17 cases of ransomware attacks in Hong Kong, including 15 in a single day alone. Photos: Bloomberg, Facebook/HK Police

Ransomware hits HK but govt computers safe

Government computer systems are operating normally, with no evidence they have been attacked by the ransomware WannaCry, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

However, Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang said the government remains vigilant against any potential attacks.

The Hospital Authority said none of the computers in public hospitals has been compromised. 

Ransomware is a type of malware that can be installed on a computer without the knowledge of the user and restricts access to the infected computer system until the user pays a ransom to have the restriction removed.

The number of victimized computers worldwide has been increasing since Friday when WannaCry emerged.

Data from the Hong Kong Productivity Council show that Hong Kong has seen 17 affected computers, including 15 used at home and two in offices, since Friday.

Wong Ka-wai, general manager of the Hong Kong Productivity Council, told a press conference that its Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre has received 17 reports of the ransomware, including 15 in a single day alone.

Of the 15 affected computers, 13 are used at home and runs Windows 7 operating system, while the other two are used in offices and run Windows 2008 and Windows 7, according to Wong. He did not reveal details of the cases and related losses.

Hong Kong saw fewer victims than other countries and regions because computer users have raised their guard and most of them use legal Windows operating system instead of pirated versions that are much easier to attack through an internet connection, Wong said.

Law Yuet-wing, a superintendent of the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau, said it is investigating a case reported on Sunday, involving a victim who was blackmailed for US$300 worth of bitcoin.

Law promised the police department will cooperate with the Interpol and other law enforcement authorities overseas to follow up on the case.

Hui Yee-wai, chief inspector of the bureau, called on people not to pay if their computers are infected with the ransomware and not to format them because doing so will make it difficult for police to trace the source of the malware.

One netizen in Taiwan has successfully negotiated with the blackmailer about the ransom, according to reports.

In an online post, the netizen said he was told to pay NT$18,700 (US$621.86) worth of bitcoin before his computer can return to normal but he claimed the amount accounts for most of his monthly income. The culprits settled for NT$1,000.

The blackmailer allegedly told the netizen that his group has “overestimated” the average income level of Asian people.

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