Beware, WannaCry cyber attack may just be the beginning

In Asia, where many offices closed before the WannaCry ransomware struck on Friday, the attack has been less severe than expected. The ransomware attack will force hundreds of thousands of users of older versions of the Windows operating system to upgrade to recent versions such as Windows 10 Pro - which now retails on the Windows store for a sweet Rs 14,999.

"The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call". Around 200,000 victims in 150 countries have been affected, according to European Union police force Europol, many of them businesses including major corporations such as Nissan, FedEx and Hitachi. The NSA obviously can not secure its own networks, and so any such weapon is one misstep away from falling into the hands of foreign governments, gangsters, or terrorists.

There are a total of 2.2 lakh ATMs in India, of which few may be running on old Windows XP. Ransomware is a kind of malware that encrypts your information on the computer and prevents users from accessing the files on their system until a certain amount is paid.

The virus exploits a flaw in a version of Microsoft Windows first identified by U.S. intelligence.

On top of that, critics say, the government didn't notify companies like Microsoft about the vulnerabilities quickly enough.

But the operating system still runs on many PCs around the world, even though Microsoft stopped providing security support on April 8, 2014.

It has reportedly also threatened to release data from banks which use SWIFT, an global money transfer network, and also information from nuclear and missile programs of countries such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Image Kaspersky Lab
Image Kaspersky Lab

A deeper look into the Trojan's eruption reveals a callous disregard on Microsoft's part for users of its older operating systems.

The story got much more infuriating when experts figured out that the computer worm was a slightly modified version of an exploit built by the NSA - one stolen by the "Shadow Brokers" and leaked over the internet.

The WannaCry pandemic is thus a win-win situation for Microsoft, which will only end up minting more money from the fiasco.

Stronger rules are required to force companies to disclose when they have succumbed to a cyber attack, and penalties may be needed to encourage us all to be better cyber citizens. The Computer Emergency Response Team has suggested using patches in users' Windows systems to prevent the bug from spreading.

It comes as China prepares to enforce a wide-reaching cyber security law that United States business groups say will threaten the operations of foreign firms in China with strict local data storage laws and stringent surveillance requirements. The health care industry has become a major target, with ransomware making up more than 70 percent of malware attacks against hospitals, pharmacies and insurance agencies.

The US is alleged to have created the "EternalBlue" exploit as a tool to gain access to computers running Microsoft's operating system, Windows.

  • Arturo Norris