Recent ransomware cyber attacks highlight vulnerability of networks

May 16, 2017 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
The recent WannaCry ransomware attacks that spread across the globe at the end of last week show how vulnerable digital systems have become to sophisticated attacks. It was widely reported how the attack brought down many NHS trusts in the UK and that many businesses from banks to utilities were hit.

The attack occurred mainly in the UK, Europe and Russia. According to reports the attackers used NSA tools that had been stolen to exploit a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. In a move to defend itself, Microsoft has come out and berated the NSA for letting it’s hacking tools be used to cause this global malware epidemic.

However, since the NSA itself was hacked, and they are leaders in hacking, it seems that we are entering a new phase in the scale and sophistication of attacks that will be launched in the near future. Further, the WannaCry ransomware attack was only stopped by a researcher noticing a built-in kill switch. It is obvious that the attack could have spread further and for longer.

What are the implications for networks and network operators. Such attacks have the potential of bringing down communications systems across the globe. Telecom service providers must be prepared for potential disruptions to their networks.

Robert Winters, Director of Communications Security at Cobham Wireless contends that companies need to prevent ransomware attacks at network level.

“Telecoms service providers across the world will be on high alert this week, following the ransomware attacks that have affected millions of computers in 150 countries over the past four days," says Robert.

"Spain’s Telefonica was affected by the malicious attack on Friday, which it said was limited to some internal computers and didn’t affect customer services. However, this breach will have sent warnings across the telecoms industry that networks are vulnerable, which could potentially affect millions of consumer and business customers."