WannaCry is now a year older - but are we a year wiser?
WannaCry is now a year older - but are we a year wiser?
While there have been many high-profile attacks in recent times, few have had such a deep and lasting psychological effect on us as WannaCry. Within just a day, the ransomware managed to infect more than 300,000 computers across 150 countries, according to the BBC, causing £3 billion worth of economic losses. Prominent organisations like Deutsche Bahn in Germany, Télefonica in Spain, FedEx in the US or Honda in Japan were affected and had to temporarily close offices or halt production. 

Most worryingly though, WannaCry wreaked havoc across Scotland and England's National Health Service (NHS). More than 70,000 devices, including operating theatre equipment, MRI scanners and computers, were affected, resulting in many non-critical appointments having to be cancelled. The WannaCry attack highlighted just how vulnerable and defenceless critical organisations like the NHS really were against cyber-crime. But how much has changed since then? On WannaCry's one year anniversary, it is time to take stock to see if organisations have learnt their lesson and upped their cyber security game.

NHS cyber-defence boost

Promisingly, just a few weeks ago, the NHS announced an investment of £150 million to upgrade its current IT infrastructure and close the security holes that made WannaCry possible in the first place. This means that, at least for the WannaCry ransomware specifically, there won't be a repeat of last year's meltdown again. However, while this investment is a great start, it is unlikely going to be enough to protect the NHS in the long run. 

New research has revealed that ransomware attacks are up 350 percent. So, while organisations like the NHS are busy patching up their systems against older threats, a whole new, much more sophisticated generation of ransomware has already emerged. Additionally, more than half of all cyber-attacks in 2017 were targeted at healthcare organisations.

It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that a quarter of IT professionals in the healthcare sector feel inadequately equipped to deal with the rising number of cyber-attacks. This sentiment is in line with the results of a recent stress test conducted by the Department of Health, which revealed that, shockingly, none of the 200 NHS trusts across the UK meet current cyber-security standards.

Good enough?

Some measures are clearly being taken to address the glaring vulnerabilities in the NHS' IT infrastructure. However, in order to seriously boost the NHS' cyber-defences and eliminate any week links, the organisation would need to invest in advanced threat detection, network monitoring and device visibility solutions – on top of good housekeeping practices like mandatory security patch updates.

Worryingly, the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) observed more than 590 major cyber incidents in the UK between October 2016 and October 2017, most of them aimed at businesses. That averages out to one major cyber-attack every 12 hours – and the figure is only set to rise this year. If there are even more attacks on the horizon, are we at least completely over WannaCry now?

Sadly, to this day, there are still many high-profile cases of WannaCry infiltrating large organisations around the globe. Just a couple of weeks ago, machines in Boeing's commercial airplane factory in South Carolina were compromised. While the attack was quickly contained, the fact it could occur in the first place – over 10 months since WannaCry gained international notoriety – is alarming. 

If one thing has become apparent over the last 12 months, it's that cyber-attacks aren't going to go away anytime soon. While cyber-threats continue to evolve, businesses are clearly lagging behind. Unless an organisation has invested in a device visibility and network security solution in the last 12 months, they will very likely be hit by the inevitable next wave of cyber-attacks.

In an increasingly connected world, such solutions must ensure companies can detect and secure a multitude of different devices on their networks, from classic desktop and laptop computers through to security cameras, heart machines, MRI scanners and X-ray machines. As long as organisations across all industries neglect their cyber- defences, bad actors will continue to have the upper hand and it will be just a question of when – not if – WannaCry2.0 will wreak havoc across the world.

Contributed by Myles Bray, VP EMEA, ForeScout

*Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of SC Media UK or Haymarket Media.