Updated: Mar 3, 2019
The global community has a renewed focus on cybersecurity in the wake of the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. The effects of the WannaCry hack are quite widespread, and the threat of such malicious intrusion has re-awakened government, business and individual interest alike to the dangers of and the need for protection from cyber attacks.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that attacks and infects a computer, ultimately denying or restricting user access until a ransom is paid. In the instance of WannaCry, phishing is used in an attempt to gain access to a computer using either an infected email attachment or link. After the ransomware is launched, it can spread through a network.
Who can be affected?
Anyone and everyone with email access can be affected by malware. Local municipalities are also particularly vulnerable given a large number of smart technologies they may use. Cities have been incorporating technology into their operations for a number of years, but with the growth in smart technology overall, cities are also becoming smarter. Newer technologies paired with faster and more convenient connectivity allow cities to optimize resources, save money, and improve services to its citizens:
Traffic Control – traffic lights and signals can be controlled such that signalization can be adjusted based on real-time traffic conditions detected through smart technologyParking – parking applications can be used within a city to find available parking spaces and pricesStreet Lighting – cities can adapt their lighting centrally to adjust to weather conditions and technical issues, and they can also automate lighting by time of day and control it in response to movementPublic Transportation – real-time data about schedules, delays, and arrivals can be provided to users, and electronic payments processed using smart technologyUtility Management – Smart grids and pipelines can monitor need and use of services, adjusting supply and demand accordingly, and utility systems can use smart technology to monitor product quality and distribution problems
Why are cyber attacks happening?
Cyber crime is big business worldwide, and the main purpose of a cyber attack is to make a profit. Internationally cyber criminals are well organized and well-funded. Ransomware helps fund these crimes, not only because of the ransoms requested but also because malware can open access to sensitive data that can be sold illegally or used to access personal financial accounts.
How do we protect ourselves?
Prevention is the key to protecting against a cyber attack and ensuring cyber security. Some important measures to implement include:
- Enable strong spam filters
- Configure firewalls to restrict access to devices
- Patch operating systems, software and firmware on devices
- Keep anti-virus programs updated and use them regularly to scan for malicious content
- Do not download unknown files or access sites via links that are unknownUse caution when accessing webmail and file exchange sites
- Avoid providing or revealing personal information in emails
Malware and cyber attacks are of great concern to modern communities. The impacts and implications can be devastating. Prevention is the best protection against malicious cyber attacks. Stay safe!
Ransomware. https://www.us-cert.gov/security-publications/Ransomware. Accessed 5/17/17.
Cerrudo, Cesar. Securing Smart Cities. An Emerging US (and World) Threat: Cities Wide Open to Cyber Attacks