Published: Sat, May 20, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

Why WannaCry Ransomware Took Down So Many Businesses

The date was May 12, and the whole world witnessed one of the most devastating ransomware attacks in the history of cyber security, the WannaCrypt0r 2.0, which infected more than 2,30,000 computers in over 150 countries. The most serious of which has been the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom which holds patient care information.

Public sector agencies also have a luxury in the form of highly-skilled government experts from the likes of the National Cyber Security Centre who are available to ensure that critical services, such as the NHS, are kept operational.

"It's no longer a cost of doing business", said R. David Edelman, who advised President Barack Obama on technology. In most cases, a new version of Windows or another operating system would also need a new computer that was powerful enough to run it, and potentially new bespoke hardware and software to enable the organisation to do its job.

The WannaCry ransomware targets Windows computers, particularly those running Windows XP, an aging operating system that Microsoft largely stopped supporting in 2014. Even though there are ways to install the latest updates on updates on Windows which are not genuine, Microsoft is also implementing restrictions every once in a while, so depending on the release, it could be more or less hard to patch a pirated Windows copy.

Spanish firm Telefonica, French automaker Renault, the US -based delivery service FedEx and the German railway Deutsche Bahn were among those affected.

Although the USA appears to have dodged a bullet, at least for now, going forward Riggi asserts that overall the healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to ransomware and is a high-priority target for cybercriminals because of the high value of health data. Unfortunately, there are many systems that simply are rarely updated, such (believe it or not) many military systems.

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It's unclear who the attackers are, but we do somewhat know about the origins of the ransomware.

There's a code among whitehat hackers and cybersecurity experts alike, whether they're professionals on Google's Project Zero team or just a guy with some know-how working out of his basement: when you discover a bug, you contact the software developer and give them a chance to make it right.

Since increasing numbers of systems running older versions of Windows were affected, Microsoft had made a decision to push an emergency patch for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, urging users to deploy the patch as soon as possible to limit the impact of WannaCry.

If I were on Windows, I'd take all this very seriously. Microsoft did issue patches for the vulnerabilities before the attacks took place, but not everyone downloaded them.

Vernick said businesses that failed to update their software could face scrutiny from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which has previously sued companies for misrepresenting their data privacy measures. If you have been regularly updating your Windows OS, then you are protected against WannaCry for now. But you can also set your devices to install those updates automatically so you don't even have to think about it. Hackers prey on complacency.

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