03:05 GMT25 November 2020
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    Ransomware Rampage: Weapons of Cyber Destruction?

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    The "WannaCry" ransomware epidemic that rampaged across the world last week exposed serious structural flaws in the global system which could end up putting real lives in danger.

    Roughly 220,000 computers mostly in Russia, China, India, and Ukraine were attacked by this virus, which froze users out of accessing their files until they paid a bitcoin ransom in order to get them back. Aside from being a costly inconvenience for the casual user, the "WannaCry" malware also infected some computers in the UK's National Health Service, which prevented staff from registering new patients and instead referring them to go elsewhere. Although there aren't any reports of people dying because of this, it's not hard to see how a large-scale ransomware attack against the NHS could conceivably throw the whole healthcare system into confusion and consequently lead to the deaths of innocent people.

    Aside from that horrendous but conceivable possibility, there's also the fact that the Ransomware interfered with some of FedEx's operations, showing how a single virus can offset elements of global commerce. In today's increasingly globalized world, information-technology systems are playing a more important role than ever in running operations behind the scenes, and if they're disrupted by these sorts of attacks, then there's no telling how this could hit business on both ends of the chain and in turn negatively impact on the national, regional, or even the global economy depending on the circumstances. Along a similar tangent, cyber weapons could be disastrous for so-called "cashless societies" such as Sweden, India, and others which are phasing out hard currency and transitioning to digital payments, and it's unknown what scale of devastation they could wreak if they ever succeeded in indefinitely shutting down a country's payment system.

    What made last week's shock attack truly scandalous, however, was that Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US' spy agencies of being responsible for what happened because it was they who originally crafted the cyber weapon which was employed. He was referring to the Vault 7 Wikileaks dump from earlier this year which revealed that the NSA was employing a tool that it called "Eternal Blue." This claim was also echoed, albeit not as directly, by Microsoft too, which blamed governments for not disclosing security vulnerabilities in the company's software. More and more, it’s beginning to look like the latest events were really just another long-delayed but the inevitable case of blowback, or in other words, the unintended consequence of a covert operation.

    To discuss this in more detail we are joined by Matthew Hickey, сo-founder of My Hacker House and Julio Cesar Fort, co-founder of the cybersecurity consultancy firm Blaze Information Security.

    We'd love to get your feedback at radio@sputniknews.com.

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    Ransomware Rampage, cyberterrorism, computers, cybersecurity, WannaCry virus
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