An incident waiting to happen - the cyber-crippling of the NHS

The crippling of over 40 NHS trusts by a repackaged piece of elderly ransomware has been used by security consultants to peddle a variety of remedies, such as following better password or patching discipline. The remedies do not address the problems that led to the vulnerabilities. XP can be made secure. The question is not “why was it still in use?” but “why was it not made secure”.

The big risk is that this “attack” was really just a trial run – to get publicity so as to soften up audiences for zero day attacks on more modern operating systems. The R&D budgets of the ransomware industry are reckoned to be greater than those of anti-virus vendors. Their profits certainly are – the Cryptolocker “team” collected $27 million via four bitcoin addresses inside two months in 2013. And that was at the beginning of an exponential wave of growth. “Merely” finding the kill switch for this particular variant is helpful. But it does not address the underlying threat to confidence in the entire on-line world – not just the NHS.

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