The story of WannaCry ransomware is a spectacular James Bond fairy tale. US NSA creates a hack tool, EternalBlue an excellent piece of code that brutally forces access into Windows computers anywhere anytime. If that is not tech nirvana, what is?
Equation Group, widely believed to be associated with NSA, whether by crook or obliviously leaks EternalBlue and other handy software tools. The omnipotent eyes of hackers pick the stuff from the internet and go to work immediately.
Fast forward to Friday, May 12 2017 Hackers are ready; WannaCry ransomware holds hostage 230,000 computers in 150 countries remotely. The bad boys, through a popup screen, demand a ransom fee of $300 to $600 for each infected computer.
Fear-stricken, victims start paying up through the stipulated bitcoins currency. Bitcoins? Well, it is the Mpamba/Airtel Money of the internet which is one to one; has no central repository like the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM). It was invented by an unknown programmer under Satoshi Nakamoto Group.
As of May 17 2017, 238 payments had been made to the tune of $72,144.76 yet none had data and system restored.
Most of the systems affected had older Windows like XP and Server 2003. The UK National Health System was raided and mayhem ensued in hospitals in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The NHS was still running on Windows XP because funding was so little it would not afford an upgrade.
The most affected countries include Russia, Ukraine, India and Taiwan. On March 14 2017 Microsoft moved in and issued a patch to seal the security hole. The company swallowed its pride and rescinded its earlier decision not to ever issue updates for Windows XP. It has to be mentioned at this point that users of Windows 10 were spared from the marauding beast.
Several hours after the initial release of WannaCry, Marcus Hutchins, a researcher who blogs under the handle @MalwareTech had by sheer luck discovered a software witch embedded in WannaCry. Unfortunately, the timely discovery only helped to stop the spread but never healed sick computers.
What are the lessons from this?
Governments and its agents must realise that deity is only patented to gods. The very tools governments use to eavesdrop on innocent citizens are the very instruments hackers use to cause havoc. Hence they are one and the same. It follows that such governments do not have moral rights to shout from an anthill about the iniquities of the evil empire of hackers.
Number two, hackers, for all the bad reasons they are known for, can awaken the conscience of bad regimes. Finally, and the last one, I do not care how much you paid for your wonderful computer; it is not eternal. Always backup or else soon, and very soon you wanna cry for your data. I have warned you and for free.
A vibrant writer who gives a great insight on hot topics and issues