Last Friday, more than 200,000 computers around the world in 150 countries, were infected with one of the fastest-spreading known ransomware titles, WannaCry.
The malware now has a few different names, but the effect was the same: pay the ransom (about $300-worth of Bitcoin) if you ever hope to use your computer again. Failure to pay during the allotted time period would raise the price.
Malware attacks like this one are becoming more and more commonplace, unfortunately, mostly because they’re somewhat effective. So far, Brian Krebs of KrebsOnSecurity.com has found that the criminals behind the attack have made more than $26,000 from their victims. Hospitals, medical providers, and schools are especially vulnerable to giving in to ransomware demands due to a desire to avoid penalties associated with violating confidentiality.
There is something larger here than just another news headline about yet another cyberattack, and that’s the need for all stakeholders—from the individual computer user to businesses of every size and industry to the highest levels of government—to finally come together and make cybersecurity a priority.
A statement from Microsoft, the developer of the operating system whose flaw made the WannaCry attack possible, has some strong words for the current approach to informing software developers and the public, specifically for key government agencies that have used those vulnerabilities to their advantage in the past. Microsoft contends that there must be better communication between the private sector, the business sector, and the government when it comes to cybersecurity, and that more attacks will happen if there isn’t better sharing of information. At the same time, programs like Google’s Project Zero, which roots out flaws and informs software developers of the vulnerability, have set a high-but-achievable standard for transparency and protection.
In the digital age, there is literally no such thing as someone who doesn’t have a stake in cybersecurity. Technology and connectivity have worked their way into every aspect of our lives, even the most basic, everyday functions, from how we grow and purchase food to how we receive medical care. Unless we all come together on the best practices for seeking out threats and eliminating them, WannaCry will be remembered as a minor-level attack compared to what’s waiting for us.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App.