Cyberattack Hits Thousands Worldwide
A massive ransomware attack which began on Friday and shutdown critical services throughout the world was found to be similar to the hack aimed at Sony Pictures in 2014, raising concerns that North Korea was behind the release of the virus. Cybersecurity experts have cautioned that viruses and worms may be the latest weapons used by terrorists looking to engage in asymmetrical warfare. So far the virus has been found in over 150 countries, and nearly crippled the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), resulting in cancelled procedures as hospital IT departments scrambled to restore compromised files.
Is North Korea Behind Latest Computer Attack?
Following a weekend which eventually saw almost 300,000 computers infected by what is now named the WannaCry virus, security analysts have unearthed striking similarities between the latest attack software and a worm created by Lazarus group, which is believed to have ties to North Korea. Lazarus is most well-known for its hack of Sony Pictures two years ago. Ostensibly in retaliation for a movie critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the hack resulted in one of the largest breaches of corporate security to date.
Viruses Can Hold Private Files Hostage
Ransomware has come into public view recently as more hackers employ the technology to send messages while earning a financial reward. Because of the limited number of operating systems, especially in the corporate environment, hackers have been able to create kits which supply the crucial code needed to disrupt operations on an enterprise scale. One of the first major attacks occurred in 2013, when a virus called CryptoLocker was used to steal files, and secure them under a private key. The files could only be returned upon payment of approximately $400. Estimates of the payments collected before the virus was finally beaten are in the neighborhood of $3 million.
Hackers Favor Digital Currencies for Ransom Payments
The rise of ransomware has been helped by the increased acceptance of digital currencies such as bitcoin. Unlike fiat currencies which are issued by a centralized bank, digital or “crypto”-currencies rely on peer-to-peer transactions. One of the main advantages of digital currencies is that they offer a higher level of privacy, as each transaction is recorded using only a bitcoin address, which is not linked to a specific individual. This anonymity makes bitcoin and its competitors the perfect payment tool for illicit dealings. Prior to being used as the currency of choice for hackers, bitcoin was frequently used to conduct business on Silk Road, a now defunct online black market which offered services ranging from drug sales to hitmen.
Microsoft Calls Out NSA for Hiding Security Holes
Microsoft has laid the blame for the security hole that was exploited by the WannaCry developers at the feet of America’s National Security Agency (NSA). The backdoor that allowed unauthorized access was originally discovered by a security expert employed by the NSA as a contractor. However the agency kept the flaw quiet as it researched whether the government would be able to use it later in the field. Unfortunately, the attack method was stolen and released earlier this year, along with several other cyber weapons. According to Microsoft’s President Brad Smith, “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call.”
Russia Blames Obama’s Lack of Cooperation
In an apparent attempt to deflect criticism from accusations that Russia participated in attempts to hack the recent French elections, as well as lingering charges of interfering in last year’s U.S. elections, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned a previous proposal extended to the Obama administration which would have led to a joint task force researching cybersecurity issues. Putin added, “Regrettably, our proposal was rejected. Then the previous administration said it was prepared to get back to our proposal, but nothing was done in practice.”
How Does the WannaCry Attack Affect Trading?
Gold is expected to see a sharp rise in price as the attack exposed how vulnerable many large companies and governments around the world have become to digital threats. Additionallly, several indices, including the Dow, London FTSE, and the Shanghai Index can expect to see lowered values, as the costs of repairing breached security systems reverberate through the various national economies. Stock prices for cybersecurity agencies should go up, however, as they book more work in both repairing damage and creating proactive safety measures.