Agencies, brands and Internet companies that support the entire advertising ecosystem, from search to display and beyond, are not prepared to deal with cyberattacks like Petya, which recently hit the global holding company WPP's Internet platforms and infrastructure.
WPP, which has a major presence in the Ukraine where Petya first appeared, was one of several multinational companies hit hard. These types of cyberattacks typically shut down corporations, at least temporarily. Many people think of cyberattacks crippling banks and financial systems. For the advertising industry, WPP sits at the pinnacle along with Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. These are the companies, along with others, that make Internet advertising tick.
The cyberattacks on WPP should serve as a wake-up call to the advertising industry and its executives who thought data and information about brands and advertising were not on the list of things that cyber wars are made of.
Petya and other ransomware strains have become commonplace. The attackers look for data and files of value to a company's strengths. The ransomware encrypts important documents and files and then demands a ransom, usually in Bitcoin, in exchange for a digital key needed to unlock the files, according to Brian Krebs, founder of Krebs On Security. That's what makes this type of cyberattack attractive to criminals.
Just as the advertising industry has become reliant on digital platforms and processes, cyberattacks will become the next battleground for global wars because they can cripple the same networks that companies rely on for economic growth. Security experts have been warning companies for years of the need to hire teams to safeguard files and platforms.
The real cost of not doing more to protect a company's digital infrastructure could cost millions to recoup from the damages.
National Public Radio reports that Petya ransomware struck about 65 countries and that Microsoft has traced it to tax software.
Microsoft initially saw the first infections in Ukraine, where more than 12,500 machines encountered the threat. Then it spread to another 64 countries, including Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Russia, and the United States.
In a detailed blog post, Microsoft said it released cloud-delivered protection updates and made updates to its signature definition packages shortly after. These updates were automatically delivered to all Microsoft free antimalware products, including Windows Defender Antivirus and Microsoft Security Essentials.