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Article: Prepping to counter WannaCry 2.0

Author: Vishwajeet Singh,
             CIO and Vice President, 
             Aptech Ltd India

The WannaCry ransomware attack - one of the largest ever cyber attack wrecked havoc and shut down tens of thousands of computer systems across 104 countries. The slow down happened soon after 'MalwareTech', a Britain-based security researcher, accidentally discovered a 'kill switch' to halt the WannaCry attack. Experts, however, warned that enterprising hackers could circumvent MalwareTech's fix. Over 200,000 systems around the world were affected in the WannaCry attack. Czech Republic-based anti-virus provider Avast, however, gave a more conservative estimate of around 126,000 systems being affected, news agency Reuters reported. The message warned that if the payment wasn’t done within three days, then the price would be doubled. The message stated that seven days was the total time given for the payment, supposed to be done through bitcoins, failing which, the files would be deleted. The bitcoins digital crypto-currency is not yet a part of the mainstream banking system in India and the attacked companies refused to pay the due as they felt that it was not a legitimate mode of payment. 

Image source: Reuters
Barring sporadic incidents in a few states in India, most institutions and industries continue to remain insulated from the effects of the attack. In India, ransomware attacks have become rampant since 2015, finding victims in a wide range of industries, from pharmaceuticals to hospitality and banking to information technology. For government agencies in India, WannaCry is not the first ransomware experience. At least two such attacks have been reported in the past one year.

During the attack, our government activated the ‘preparedness and response mechanism’ and CERT-IN, on May 13, issuing an advisory for both reactive and preventive actions to deal with the ransomware. While post mortem mechanism may have been the only option, a preventive strategy would have been the accurate approach to such an intrusion and thus more effective.

This turns to India learning two important lessons from this situation:

1) To be always prepared: companies need to constantly stay up to date for plausible treats that could come their way

2) To have the armour to face such threats: the IT space needs to have enough skilled labour to counter such acts efficiently

3) Better coordination between Government and Enterprises is highly required to create a stronger system

To always be prepared, companies need to adopt the triple D method of detect, determine, and deter. For to be an effective approach, companies need to make sure that their employees up to date with the skills required in accordance with the changing industry. Re-skilling and up-skilling to equip the labour should be the number one priority of not only IT companies but any company who wants to be a step ahead of such unforeseen but common attacks in today’s day and age.

Vishwajeet Singh
CIO and Vice President, Aptech Ltd

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