Costly new cyberattacks are spreading concurrently around the globe this week, as perpetrators demand money to return control of the computers in question.
As computers and their associated technologies burrow their way further into our daily lives, criminals have created dastardly new ways to exploit their inherit security flaws to wreak havoc on the global population. Their latest tactic is “ransomware”: Security-shirking programs that infect a computer by locking all access to the machine until after the victim provides banking information to their cyber captors. Then, once these criminals have the cash, they simply vanish.
While, on a small scale, computer scams such as this have occurred for years, there is a frightening new development in the act. After the leak of American intelligence community hacking tools to online whistleblower website Wikileaks, maleficent virtual muggers have been able to substitute their average citizen victims with enormously wealthy and dangerous clientele, demanding larger sums of money. Sure, huge corporations would likely be able to simply replace the computers, but what happens if one of these ransom attacks targets a water treatment facility, or air traffic control?
Worse yet; what if they demanded a ransom to unlock the computers that monitor the radiation at the Chernobyl site?
“Computer systems from Russia to the United States were struck on Tuesday in an international cyberattack that bore similarities to a recent assault that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.
“As reports of the attack spread quickly, the Ukrainian government said that several of its ministries, radiation monitoring at the Chernobyl nuclear facility, local banks and metro systems had been affected. A number of companies — including the Danish shipping giant Maersk; Rosneft, the Russian energy giant; Saint-Gobain, the French construction materials company; and WPP, the British advertising agency — also said they had been targeted.
“And in the first confirmed cases in the United States, Merck, the drug giant, confirmed that its global computer networks had been hit, as did DLA Piper, the multinational law firm.
These damaging attacks are unfortunately only the beginning, in terms of the damage that will be done by these hacking vermin.
The software leak earlier this year is still too recent to have fully affected the capabilities of the world’s most prolific PC pilferers. As the software becomes more widespread, and better understood, the next generation of cyberwarfare’s weapons will become nigh unstoppable, and at what point will cyber-weapons be restricted from the public? Could we see 2nd Amendment-style partisan politicking and regulations for strength and speed of computers and networks? Could these attacks usher in a new era of totalitarian, global internet control?
Unfortunately, at this point, the possibilities are endless.