On 12 May 2017, a quarter million computers around the world powered on to find a screen declaring a ransomware attack. Users were given 72 hours to pay $300 in bitcoin ransom for the return of their data. Individual computers were hit, but also major corporations, like FedEx, Honda, Groupe Renault and public institutions like England’s National Health Service, the University of Montreal and the state governments of India. This was a massive attack on a global scale, evidenced in 150 countries.
The WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm targeted mostly users of Microsoft Windows 7 operating system. A flaw in the operating system allowed the cryptoworm to enter through a weak SMB port. This was atypical for ransomware because it is commonly initiated through email phishing. A 22-year-old British cybersecurity tech named Marcus Hutchins brought WannaCry to a halt by finding a kill switch buried in the code.
The hackers demanded payment in bitcoin, a common theme in the world of cyber crimes. While many organizations refused to pay, choosing instead to rebuild their infrastructure, others were forced to submit to the demands because the loss of data would be too great. The estimated economic loss for the WannaCry ransomware attack is $4 billion.
Bitcoin is an exciting venture in the world of modern currency. As the first decentralized digital currency, bitcoin has direct transfers from one account to another without third-party intermediaries. These direct transmissions can be sent to anyone worldwide, and all transactions are recorded in a distributed public ledger called the blockchain.
If all transactions are recorded, why do hackers prefer ransom in digital currency, as opposed to fiat currency? The answer can be found in the way bitcoin is stored: in digital wallets. While digital wallets have a known address, or public key, there is another piece of information to control the currency that is private. Since wallets need not be tied to real-world names, this digital identity in effect creates additional anonymity. This anonymity is a benefit to all users of bitcoin, even hackers.
Digital currency and the underlying technology innovation, the blockchain, are not just here to stay, but have the potential to be a major disruptive force in transaction logging and fidelity for many industries.
The State of Cyber Crime
Ransomware attacks exploded into a billion-dollar industry in 2016. In just the last few months, the CCleaner program exploit presented a clever way to pass through carefully crafted and layered defense strategies. Poorly configured systems allowed unfettered access to private Equifax information. They also opened a path for the WannaCry exploit, which was one of the largest ransomware attacks in history. Additionally, attackers are also leveraging social media to create targeted attacks against many businesses.
Crime-as-a-Service is the professionalization of the Dark Web, offering startup kits, tech support and money-back guarantees. This could be the next big threat to businesses.
As a business owner, you never know if the promises of anonymous hackers can be trusted. While hackers may say your encrypted data will return once ransom is paid, there’s no guarantee that this will happen. There’s no Better Business Bureau to report to.
In theory, you shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, but the hackers are smart. The WannaCry hackers demanded only $300. For many businesses, it costs that much just to get their IT support to address the problem. This leads many SMBs to simply pay the ransom and hope for the best.
But we feel that the real solution is to never be faced with that decision.
Learn More: Everything You Need to Know About Cybersecurity
KJ Technology and Cybersecurity
In the new reality, where malicious attackers may already be targeting your business, you need your cybersecurity to be flexible, responsive and tailored to your business needs. Our boutique solutions help you craft a custom and compressive business strategy. A technically sound layered defense is just the beginning.
Call us to discuss how we go above and beyond for you with proactive systems audits, vulnerability assessments and even cyber-insurance.