The CyberWire: The WannaCry Ransomware Pandemic: Perspective, Reactions, and Prospects

June 5, 2017 — The WannaCry Ransomware Pandemic: Perspective, Reactions, and Prospects

Robert Capps, VP of Business Development for NuData Security offered thoughts on why the healthcare sector can be particularly attractive to ransomware extortionists.

WannaCry ransomware hit hard late last week, and enterprises worldwide are bracing for further waves of infestation. The hitherto obscure strain of ransomware propagated in wormlike fashion against systems running older Microsoft software. It exploited the vulnerability the Shadow Brokers leaked last month as the weaponized EternalBlue tool. The rate of infection has been very high, temporarily slowed by discovery and activation of a “kill switch,” but most observers expect renewed attack as the unknown controllers upgrade the malware.

Affected systems are running old and in some cases pirated versions of Microsoft operating systems, specifically Windows XP, Windows 8, and Server 2003.

We are seeing an increasing number of hackers using ransomware to extort organizations for money. These attacks can be very destructive to the target and highly lucrative for the attacker. In February of last year, a Los Angeles hospital paid about $17,000 worth of bitcoins after a data breach. Since then, several medical institutions have been crippled by ransomware, forcing them to turn away patients. These criminals are responsible for a growing percentage of financial fraud, malware, and other cyber threats. They either make money directly from the attack, from the sale of the data, or from money laundering after cyber attacks. They will continually find new ways to penetrate consumer accounts and corporate networks, and evade detection by tools deployed to counter such threats. Organizations that hold critical and personal information about their users or stakeholders have a choice. Rather than just protecting transactional data, accept the full ramifications of data protection and system security by designing their systems to protect their users and ALL account data first.

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