There is no doubt that the biggest news for internet users as of late has been the WannaCry ransomware attack, a malware that has affected Microsoft Windows users worldwide. The hackers hijacked a tool that once belonged to the US National Security Agency (NSA) which allows hackers to target Windows users, blocking access to their computer hard drive until they paid a ransom to unlock it.
Foreign news agencies reported that the WannaCry cyber attack spread to more than 99 countries worldwide, targeting big companies and organisations such as hospitals and clinics across the UK and one of the largest telecommunication companies in Spain. Assistant Professor Dr. Krerk Piromsopa of the Department of Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering explained, “The WannaCry targets older Windows operating systems as Windows XP and older versions leave a gap for the malware to enter as Microsoft stopped issuing updates. For your computer to become infected by WannaCry, you just need to turn on your Windows operating system computer and connect to the internet which leaves you completely vulnerable if you haven’t installed any protection .”
Dr. Krerk goes on to say also pointed out that the reason the WannaCry malware is big news even though computer viruses and malwares have become quite normal is because WannaCry focuses on attacking only critical data. Victims are then asked to pay a ransom in bitcoins, a digital currency that does not allow for the received to be traced, before the hacker will remove the infection to give users access once more to their important files.
“The story has made top headlines because it affects computer operating systems such as X-rays and MRIs. Airline bookings have also been affected. It’s been much worse when compared to other malwares,” said Assistant Professor Dr. Krerk.
As for the process of tracking the hacker, Dr. Krerk said that some programmers have examined the malware code and found that the malware is connected to a main web domain, but the website is unregistered. He also warned that this is just the start of the WannaCry cyber attack and more damage is expected. This issue should be taken seriously as it is considered a cyber crime. Thailand also has a law to govern the act of computer-related offences known as the Computer Crime Act of 2007.
Dr. Krerk said that regardless of this incident, computer users should regularly update their software to protect their computers from being affected by malwares and viruses. Bigger organisations and departments tend to undervalue the importance of this as it may involve additional charges for updates each time.
“Updating software regularly is like maintaining one’s home, plugging holes and leaks. Most people seem to wait for a problem to happen before fixing it. We should view the computer the same as our home or like clothes that need regular cleaning because we don’t our computers to stop functioning,” said Dr. Krerk.
He went on to say that in the last few years the world has seen many computer viruses, worms and malwares because we have become so dependent on IT operating systems and have integrated them into our daily lives. The more we rely on computers, new malwares will continue to be created.
“Not too long ago, there was the Stuxnet malware that affected mobile phones with uranium. The goal was to tamper with nuclear bombs were still under development, causing them to explode. In the future, we may even encounter malwares that can control electricity and more powerful tools,” said Dr. Krerk.
Malwares are the new cyber weapon. Dr. Krerk went on to say that even though there is no confirmation, he believes that the US government has invested a lot in creating these cyber tools even while the US has even blamed rival nations for data hacks such as China, who they believed released computer viruses into US networks. He concluded by saying these kind of incidents will definitely become more apparent in the future.