Aviation Security Expert Julian Bray who helped launch the UK Information Technology Year in Milton Keynes way back in 1982 says todays computer software meltdown is probably down to a Russian based cyberwrecking crew.
The Russians are tonight being suggested as the most likely culprits behind what is turning into a worldwide computer ransom security fail - The UK National Health Service, being just one of several world wide targets, the NHS hack includes many thousands of general practitioners (doctors and other health professionals) all linked into the NHS computer network, and most of these sites are running the much loved but now very out of date Windows XP operating system which hasn't been regularly supported by Microsoft for several years now, although the odd patch is released from time to time.
The hardware is also increasing ancient as can be observed in any hospital or local GP surgery. Government advice is to back up all files daily but it is not a mandatory requirement, and the current Home Secretary Amber Rudd is clearly well out of her depth on the technicalities involved.
Julian Bray says sadly so much computing time is taken up by staff in many industries (not just the NHS) game playing and surfing the net, cyber shopping, ordering groceries, in addition to the tasks the computer is designed for. This is time when staff should ideally be backing up files to secure parallel networks and disaster recovery centres.
But it just does not happen, and IT staff are an easy way to cut the payroll. They are now so thin on the ground, some joke they are an endangered species. Ever changing agency staff some employed on a daily basis within the NHS on short contracts are not being given complete IT skills training.
Most of these ransom demands are carried on the back of tempting internet shopping offers, and in some cases legitimate e-mails but the text and format has been copied to fool the recipient. Hackers come in all shapes and sizes,
The sad part of all this is, as the NHS software has run without major mishap for years, budget conscious financial directors and NHS Chief executives have skimped on cyber security, many NHS trusts spending just £20k per annum to support their systems.
The meltdown happens when someone clicks on a link usually attached to an email and in so doing, the internal software is contaminated and files encrypted. The cyberwreckers then post a landing screen which suggests that if $500 worth of bitcoin - the internet cyber currency - is sent to a particular address then an unlock code would be released. Experts are split on what to do but invariably the ransom is paid out to recover valuable files and to restore the operating system.
A mysterious organisation dubbed Shadow Brokers - claimed in April it had stolen a ‘cyber weapon’ from an American spying agency giving it unprecedented access to all computers using Microsoft Windows, More likely is that the program has been purchased on the dark web and the crooks behind the scams are busy attacking email accounts...
City of London Police have now issued this advice:
Following the ransomware cyber attack on Friday 12 May which affected the NHS and is believed to have affected other organisations globally, the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has issued an alert urging both individuals and businesses to follow protection advice immediately and in the coming days.
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Analyst/expert, www.freelancedirectory.org?name=Julian.Bray.aviation.comment Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com