The downsides of going digital

I t was the largest global ransomware attack in internet history, and the full extent of the damage is yet to be assessed.

Published: 17th May 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2017 11:42 PM   |  A+A-

It was the largest global ransomware attack in internet history, and the full extent of the damage is yet to be assessed. WannaCry, a malicious software which has affected roughly 2 lakh people in 150 countries, infected the computer systems of Britain’s National Health Service, some of Spain’s largest companies like Telefonica as also computer networks in Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan. So far, it has had only limited impact in India. But consider its penetration: It has infected computers in the most unlikely places—panchayat offices and a railway division office in Kerala, the power distribution utility in West Bengal and police stations in Andhra.

Ransomware is a malware that blocks access to a computer or its data  until a sum of money is paid. It lays hidden in Word documents, PDFs and other files having gained entry via email, or as a secondary infection on computers already affected by viruses, says a Guardian report.  Earlier, in February, another version, WeCry, was detected, and it also asked for ransom to unlock the files and programmes. Wannacry is asking for $300 worth of crypto-currency Bitcoin to unlock the contents of the computers. Till this moment, it is not known who the creators are.

Some blame Microsoft as the current attack exploited a Windows networking protocol to spread within networks. Yes, Microsoft released a patch nearly two months ago, but apparently it didn't reach all users, rendering their systems vulnerable. Where does it leave India? Union Minister for Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad maintains there is no major impact in India, unlike other countries. He avers that our systems, handled by the National Informatics Centre, are secure and running smoothly.

However, reports indicate that at least 45,000 computers have crashed. If anything, the ransomware attack has put a few things beyond doubt. One, the reality of the global village can have a clear downside in this highly connected world. Two, the cyberworld is not always a virtual reality that you can log out from, at will.


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