Incident Points up Danger of Microsoft Windows Standardisation, Dependence.
The failure of the global extortion cyber attack to get a foothold in New Zealand vindicates the value of the continuous system upgrades that from the outset of the information technology era has been a characteristic of the institutional information technology scene here, notably that of governmental services.
The ransomware attack, as it is known, notably attacked Britain’s National Health Service. Here it penetrated especially the service-to-patient delivery systems in health trusts. Services affected include picture archiving communication systems for x-ray images, pathology test results, phone and bleep systems and patient administration systems.
Institutional systems upgrades have long been considered to be conducted at twice the frequency in New Zealand as in the United Kingdom.
In addition to the routine and enforced upgrade of distributed systems here is the long-standing centralised structure of New Zealand health services.
Healthcare it can be clearly seen now is a natural target for computer-freezing extortion malware just because if someone’s life depends on something such as an operating theatre functioning or not functioning then there will be a greater readiness to pay the ransom to restore the computer systems driving it.
The disturbing aspect of this most recent attack is that the various ransom demands have been payable via bitcoin, the virtual liquid money technique. This means that the ransom payments are to a substantial extent untraceable,
All the indications so far lead to the cyber extortion attack being targeted on Microsoft systems that are no longer in fact officially supported by Microsoft. The pressures on Britain’s National Health Service continues to lead to budget cuts of which information technology savings have been foremost, leaving a large proportion of legacy systems vulnerable.
The freezing of targeted systems so that users cannot in fact use them ramps up the cyber war notably in the demand for the untraceable bitcoin ransom payments.
New Zealand’s reliance on the overwhelming global standard Microsoft Windows means that there are few grounds for complacency.
Internationally this latest attack has renewed the call for operating system diversity such as into independent operating systems especially in the open source sphere, notably Unix and Linux.
On this occasion Russia has not been blamed for the cyber attack and indeed is a victim of it probably because of its very large proportion of legacy systems vulnerable to precisely this type of hack.
Indeed Russian resident and fugitive CIA sleuth Edward Snowden has rounded on the popularly-supposed originator of the cyber implant, the United States National Security Agency. The NSA points out Snowden should have alerted its allies to its systems-paralysing device, especially at the time that it suspected, knew, that it had been filched.
This in turn leads to the supposition that in fact the cyber-sharing Five Eyes alliance, an English speaking union which includes New Zealand, had in fact been notified of the piratage and had taken steps to avoid it.
This does not explain though how Five Eyes signals intelligence-sharing member the UK got such a bad hit?
In turn this can be explained by the signals intelligence community failing to identify the vulnerability of Britain’s once admired but now ramshackle and sprawling public health system and also to comprehend how it would present such a tempting target to the pirated and now modified interference penetration weapon.
The quick response to the attack in the United Kingdom is substantially credited to a lone cyber security buff who got into the back of it, and discovered a sink-hole which now acted as a decoy into which the systems crippling onrush dumped itself and was smothered and drowned.
This could well be a part of the story.
But it is unlikely to be the full story. Which should also encompass the notion that with the systems paralysing genie out of the bottle, and still assuming that it had its genesis in a national security agency, that someone quickly produced an antidote to it.
| From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk || Sunday 14 May 2017 |||