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Arizona cyber experts warn WannaCry outbreak is just tip of iceberg

(Photo by Yuri Samoilov via flickr/Creative Commons)

(Photo by Yuri Samoilov via flickr/Creative Commons)

Arizona cybersecurity experts called the recent international cyberattack known as “WannaCry” among the worst they have seen, and warned about the country’s lack of cybersecurity preparation.

“This is only the beginning of a very, very long list of bad stuff,” said Brett Scott, co-founder of the Arizona Cyber Warfare Range. “It’s about as bad as one can imagine. I suppose one day it will get worse because every time I think we’ve hit the limit, it always gets worse.”

Frank Grimmelmann, president and CEO of Arizona Cyber Threat Response Alliance, called WannaCry “simply the tip of the iceberg.”

“If vulnerabilities are there,” he continued, “it’s not a question of if you will be attacked or will they ultimately be successful. It’s a question of when.”

The WannaCry malware that swept around the world infected vulnerable computers and held the data on them hostage by encrypting files and demanding a ransom to unlock the files.

The attack made its way through multiple countries, including Russia, parts of Europe and the U.S. Reports said the ransomware is believed to have been developed from digital tools devised by the U.S. National Security Agency, stolen by a group of hackers known as the Shadow Brokers, and leaked online in April, reportedly to protest Donald Trump’s presidency.

The malicious software exploited a Windows computer vulnerability that allowed it to spread. A patch was released by Microsoft in March, but computers that had not been updated are at risk of infection.

Among the affected systems were hospitals, government offices, and FedEx. It was not the first ransomware attack, and experts are certain it will not be the last.

Tom Kellerman, CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures said he and many in his industry see this as “almost a trial run.”

Kellerman said the inter-networking of smart devices has only increased vulnerabilities, “given all the opportunities that it provides” a hacker.

While WannaCry mostly hit business and government systems, Kellerman warned that the next targets could be homes.

“You can walk away from work and call it a day. [But] these things now will impact your personal life and safety at home, should they not be corrected soon,” he said.

Grimmelmann said he believes that businesses and individuals will ultimately adapt to combat cyberattacks, but added that the WannaCry attacks demonstrated “the danger of knowing that vulnerabilities exist and not making vendors aware of them, therefore not having patched systems.”

Scott said because the attack utilized “state-sponsored weaponry,” the hackers exploited a “vulnerability that no one was aware of.”

“We are, as a country, very ill-prepared,” he said. “The U.S. government does not know how to deal with the loss of their toys and because they don’t know how to deal with that, we are all suffering and we will all suffer a lot more.”

Scott said the future of cyber protection lies in the hands of businesses and individuals, and not solely in the hands of the government.

“I think that this is actually the moment when everyone can be called to the table and say, ‘Do you realize now that government is not the answer to these problems?’” he said. “Play time is over. It’s time to get serious.”


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