Commentary

With WannaCry, At Last Something That's Not Social Media's Fault

In addition to all the good it has brought the world in the form of cat videos, social media seems to get blamed for just about everything bad that can happen, from depression and divorce to fake news and terrorist recruitment (not to mention the Fyre Festival, straddling all those categories).

Finally, something really bad happened and it’s apparently not social media’s fault! Hurrah!

According to press reports and experts on cyber-security, the WannaCry ransomware, which has temporarily paralyzed large parts of the Internet since Friday, first began spreading via an email attachment.

After that, it moved primarily to file-sharing systems of the sort commonly used by companies and government organs, allowing the malware to speedily tunnel through various linked organizations.

The WannaCry ransomware targeted PCs using outdated Microsoft Windows operating systems, which hadn’t downloaded key security updates, leaving them vulnerable to the “Eternal Blue” hacking tool first developed by the U.S. National Security Administration.

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A group of hackers known as the Shadow Brokers, possibly associated with Russian intelligence, stole the code for Eternal Blue and posted it online in April; another criminal group is believed to have incorporated it into traditional malware to “super charge” the ransomware attack, resulting in WannaCry, which encrypts all the data on a user’s computer and demands a payment of $300 in bitcoins to release it.

The ransomware appears to be spreading faster in Russia and China, in part because of the large number of computers running pirated versions of Microsoft Windows, which have more security vulnerabilities.

It also shut down much of Britain’s National Health System, spurring criticism of lax security procedures there.

So, to review: as far as we can tell, in addition to the criminals themselves the culprits in this global IT debacle include email, file-sharing networks, lazy computer users, pirated software, the NSA, and – surprise, surprise – those damn Russkies.

Social media is nowhere to be seen on the list. Chalk this one up as a PR win!

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