Every once in a while, we come across developments that reignite focus on the subject of security. Over the past week, that development was WannaCry, a ransomware program that has infected over 230,000 systems in over 99 countries. Closer home, the Andhra Pradesh Police is said to be the latest victim of the attack. Globally, the list of victims includes the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, Russian Railways, Nissan, Renault, Telefonica, and several critical entities such as hospitals, blood banks, and financial institutions.
It’s popularly believed that if you have safe browsing patterns, aren’t irresponsible in accessing and sharing information, and don’t depend on public computers to access information, then there’s not much for you to worry about. It’s also imperative that you own legal software, content and media. But this world isn’t ideal. We aren’t ideal. Companies aren’t ideal. And neither are the powers that be. What we can change though, is us. So let’s begin there. Not all of us have safe browsing habits. Not all of us buy legal genuine software.
So the next time, a friend tells you about a new way of installing pirated Windows on your system, think twice. There’s a price you could eventually pay. If the operating system doesn’t matter to you and you only look at using a browser, and word processing, then you might be better off with a Ubuntu system as well.
The industry is working towards safer software
Since Windows 10, Microsoft has significantly brought down the cost of owning the Windows operating system. Piracy is a huge concern. And yet, we would hold software creators for not plugging vulnerabilities, a lot of which would in fact be in place had we patched our software available for genuine consumers. ALSO READ: IT Ministry reaches out to RBI to warn against WannaCry ransomware
Turns out, Microsoft has gone far beyond what was expected from it to help consumers stay safe. Not only did it release a patch before the outbreak of this attack, but it also rolled out a patch for previous versions of Windows that it no longer supports, including Microsoft Windows XP. This is one of those times when not all fingers can point towards the largest software company in the world.
But help from authorities is welcome, too!
What we do know so far, is that we have a lot of learning to do before we’re blameless online. There’s also the fact that government entities such as the National Security Agency have been working with vulnerabilities in software. In an official blog post, Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer at Microsoft said, “The governments of the world should treat this attack as a wake-up call. They need to take a different approach and adhere in cyberspace to the same rules applied to weapons in the physical world.” Smith went on to add, that governments need to consider the damage to civilians by withholding information and ‘stockpiling vulnerabilities’. ALSO READ: Andhra Pradesh’s police departments affected by ‘WannaCry’ ransomware
Philip Misner, Principal Security Group Manager at Microsoft Security Response Center said in a blog post, “Seeing businesses and individuals affected by cyberattacks, such as the ones reported today, was painful.” Interestingly, it was primarily the older unsupported devices and largely devices that weren’t secure through official patches that seemed to be affected. According to the Microsoft blog, Windows 10 systems weren’t affected by the attack.
Hackers will continue to be hackers, and if anything, this widespread attack is yet another wakeup call towards doing the right thing. We can begin by doing what we can. Be genuine, be diligent and follow best practices while procuring and using software and content online. Refrain from clicking on enticing and flashy banners or emails that we don’t recognize. And lastly, refrain from visiting websites and services to download movies, music, and software if you’re not familiar with the damage it could cause you.