Tens of thousands of computer users worldwide are refusing to pay ransom in the WannaCry attack.
With the clock ticking on whether a global hacking attack would wipe out his data, Bolton Jiang had no intention of paying a 21st-century ransom.
Since a week ago, when the malware first struck, Jiang had been fixing and replacing computers at the electronics company where he works in Shanghai. Meeting the hackers’ demands was a bother, he said, and there was no guarantee he would get his data back.
“Even if you do pay, you won’t necessarily be able to open the files that are hit,” he said.
Tens of thousands of computer users worldwide made the same decision, refusing to pay the anonymous hackers behind the ransomware attack known as WannaCry. The attackers had demanded that individuals pay up to $600 by Friday to regain control of their machines, or face losing their data.
As of Friday evening in New York, about 300 payments had been made, netting the hackers about $95,000 worth of the digital currency bitcoin, according to companies monitoring the hackers’ payment accounts.
But the malicious software, which attacked versions of Microsoft’s Windows software, exposed the widespread vulnerability of computers to such attacks and offered a peek at a new type of crime capable of being committed on a global scale.
The latest strain of ransomware was particularly troubling, security experts warned, because it was based on software stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that had been posted online last month. Law-enforcement agencies in the United States and elsewhere have been searching for the WannaCry culprits, with attention focused on hackers linked to North Korea.
New threats could emerge soon, given that the Shadow Brokers, the anonymous group that posted the first batch of NSA tools online, is promising to release more of the software — including malware that attacks routers, smartphones and current versions of Windows — every month.
Early estimates of what the virus could ultimately yield for those who unleashed it had ranged from the tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. Victims were given seven days to pay from when their computers were first infected, so the deadline varies.
Along with broad attacks in Europe, many of the estimated 200,000 computers hit by WannaCry were in Asia, where widespread use of pirated software has increased their vulnerability. Those affected, including hospitals, government offices and universities, have lost access to business information, term papers and medical records.
Some victims have struck a defiant tone. The Japanese conglomerate Hitachi, which was identified in the news media as a victim, declined to confirm those reports Friday but said it had no intention of paying a ransom and that it expected to be fully secure against future attacks by Monday. Nissan Motor, another Japanese industrial giant, also said it would not pay a ransom.