What WannaCry Reveals About Corporate Security
The cyberattack that struck companies and organizations across Europe on May 12 has been called “unprecedented” by Europol and its European Cybercrime Centre, and its scope continues to widen. According to CNN, the attack impacted “at least 150 countries,” infecting some 200,000 computers worldwide.
When the virus, known as Wanna Decryptor, or WannaCry, struck, organizations across the globe found themselves suddenly unable to access their computer data. The hackers informed them that they had to pay a ransom in order to reverse the virus’s effects and regain control over the newly encrypted files. Telecom companies, hospitals, and even Russia’s Interior Ministry are said to have suffered in the online attack, CNN reported, and Fox News said that it had also spread to multiple companies in the U.S.
The question is, could the attack have been averted? This wasn’t a phishing scam, where someone had to open an email or download an attachment to start the infection. Understanding what happened, and why, holds some lessons that corporate directors can follow for their own firms.
Managing the Malware Crisis
Like most malicious software, or malware, WannaCry was designed to impede access to critical and valuable company information. CNN explained that the virus “spread by taking advantage of a Windows vulnerability.”
While Microsoft had already released a security patch for this vulnerability in March, those users who hadn’t installed the security update were at risk of infection. The malware included a feature that allowed it to spread to other PCs using internal networks, which accounted for its swift and far-reaching growth.
Those affected were informed by the hackers that they must pay either $300 or $600, depending on the message, in bitcoin currency. But according to CNN, Europol is advising against this. Besides the fact that relinquishing hundreds of dollars does not guarantee that the hackers will release their victims’ data, Europol warned via CNN that “cybercriminals will continue their activity and look for new ways to exploit systems that result in more infections and more money in their accounts.” Those affected are being told instead to visit NoMoreRansom.org, a free online resource developed by Europol, the Dutch Police and industry partners like Intel Security, for information on alternate methods of regaining access to their files.
Keeping Data Safe in Times of Uncertainty
Tracking the culprits who kicked off this virus will take an international effort, Europol has said. In the meantime, however, several tech leaders have already started sharing their lessons learned.
Several of these were outlined in a blog post shared by Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. “This attack demonstrates the degree to which cybersecurity has become a shared responsibility between tech companies and customers,” Smith wrote, emphasizing that with cybercriminals using increasingly sophisticated methods to infiltrate computers, it’s important that organizations keep on top of security updates. “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,” Smith wrote.
Aside from system updates, one way that top executives — and companies in general — can support cybersecurity and protect themselves is by evaluating where their data lives and limiting the ways in which it can be accessed. For example, vital corporate data related to the board of directors can be shared through a board portal like Diligent’s, which encrypts information to allow for secure access on a variety of devices.
Board portals enable administrators to both grant and revoke access to individual board members and executives, thus preventing unauthorized users from viewing or sharing board-related materials. Should a virus similar to WannaCry arise, organizations using board portals have the ability to remotely remove materials from infected computers without having to pay a ransom. This increases their ability to control both the storage and the flow of information, along with the likelihood that their data will remain safe.
While WannaCry’s developers surely didn’t intend for their ransomware to improve corporate security, its existence creates an opportunity for organizations to make some much-needed changes. These changes stand to protect businesses from cyberattacks, and with any luck, might even make future hackers think twice.
Diligent is the leading provider of secure corporate governance and collaboration solutions for boards and senior executives. Over 4,700 clients in more than 70 countries and on all seven continents rely on Diligent to provide secure, intuitive access to their most time-sensitive and confidential information, ultimately helping them make better decisions. The Diligent Boards (formerly Diligent Boardbooks) solution speeds and simplifies how board materials are produced, delivered and collaborated on via any device, removing the security concerns of doing this by courier, email and file sharing. Visit www.diligent.com or follow Diligent on Twitter @diligentHQ to learn more.