Global cyber-attack leaves world reeling
The largest cyber-attack in history, undertaken over the last few days, and widely expected to continue into the week, has left a number of government services, national bodies, and private companies crippled. Amongst the most high profile victims are The UK’s National Health Service, Russia’s Ministry of Interior, a number of China’s government agencies, Germany’s Deutsche Bahn rail system, automakers Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA, PetroChina, Fedex Corp., and more.
Europol executive director Rob Wainwright described the attack on ITV’s “Peston on Sunday” broadcast, saying: “We’ve seen the rise of ransomware becoming the principal threat, I think, but this is something we haven’t seen before -- the global reach is unprecedented.”
The ‘ransomware’ Wainwright describes is one particular tool used by cyber-criminals. It enters computer systems and encrypts certain files, leaving them inaccessible to users. Then the cyber-criminal sends a ‘ransom note’ demanding payment – in this case, paid in bitcoin – in exchange for the key to de-encrypt the affected files. Depending which files are hit, this can be a devastating form of attack. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS), for example, was forced to pretty much shut down in response, as patients’ medical files became redacted and important facilities like X-Ray were rendered unusable.
The hackers allegedly stole their tool from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), and managed to infiltrate the NHS and other organisations due to poor cyber-security measures therein. The NHS, for example, was found to be using the Windows XP operating system – software so old it is no longer supported by Microsoft.
Microsoft Corp. President Brad Smith took to the blogosphere to air his thoughts over the breach, noting that it was a powerful “wake-up call” for governments to address cyber-security weaknesses. He said:
“They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world. There is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their system. Otherwise they’re literally fighting the problems of the present with tools from the past. This attack is a powerful reminder that information technology basics like keeping computers current and patched are a high responsibility for everyone, and it’s something every top executive should support.”
According to Europol, more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been affected so far.
Dominion holds a number of companies, such as Aphabet, that are involved in the cyber-security sector, within its Global Trends Managed Fund. The opinions in this article do not reflect those of Dominion Fund Management Limited, and in the instance of any forward-looking statements, these should not be construed as advice.
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