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Mace & Crown | July 26, 2017

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Cyberattack Strikes Countries Around the World

Audra Reigle | Technology Editor

A cyberattack affected almost 100 countries, including the U.S., on May 13. This attack happened just days after President Trump signed his cybersecurity order.

Cyber-attackers encrypted information on computers and demanded $300 or more to unlock them, according to the New York Times. FedEx in the U.S. was among the institutions and government agencies affected by the attack. The attackers were expected to receive more than $1 billion worldwide before the deadline to unlock the computers ran out, but they only received about $33,000 via the virtual currency Bitcoin as of May 13.

Russia, Ukraine, India and Taiwan were among the hardest hit countries. Companies in the U.S. were hit, but thanks to a British cybersecurity researcher identified only by the Twitter handle @MalwareTechBlog, the ransomware was inadvertently stopped. All he did was register a website, and the ransomware stopped spreading.

Free security patches for Windows were released by Microsoft, and even users of older versions of Windows have had the patches released to them. “The patches could help protect users from attacks, which have not targeted Windows 10,” according to the New York Times.

Trump’s executive order was signed days prior to the attack on May 11. It was originally supposed to be signed after his inauguration, but it was delayed, according to TechCrunch. There are differences from the original, such as “put[ting] the responsibility for cybersecurity risk on the heads of federal agencies.” It also “places greater responsibility for federal cybersecurity with the military.” Trump’s order “calls for workforce development that will fill the government with competent cybersecurity workers, [but] the president’s hiring freeze has hindered other federal programs that encourage cybersecurity students to take government jobs after graduating college.”

However, just because the attack was stopped doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. The person who brought an end to the first attack warns that the attackers could change the code and do it again, according to The Guardian. He tells people to patch their systems to keep themselves protected from future attacks. The “accidental hero” of the attack has been collecting IPs and sending them to law enforcement agencies so those that were affected can be notified.

The ransomware was called “WannaCry,” according to WAVY. Thiry Technology has been spending time to calm their clients following the attack, including local business Taste. According to Rob Loomis, Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, their system was already updated, “which limited their risk.” Loomis told WAVY that “customer information is not at risk during this attack, but the company is taking steps to make sure its data isn’t compromised either.”

Using outdated software puts you at greater risk, and “large networks face the greatest risk.” Doug Thiry, President of Thiry Technology, told WAVY that once one computer gets infected, it uses Microsoft to spread to other computers in the building.

While the attack was brought to a stop before it could do much to the U.S., it is better to be safe than sorry. If it’s been a while since you updated your computer, now would be a good time to do so. In the event you are hit with ransomware, “law enforcement warns to never pay the ransom,” according to WAVY.