In April 2017, a “collection of spy tools allegedly used by the National Security Agency” (NSA) were stolen and leaked online by a group of anonymous hackers calling themselves the Shadow Brokers.
These tools, called “exploits,” are software tools designed to take advantage of a flaw in a computer system, typically for malicious purposes, such as installing malware on a user’s device.
When the Shadow Brokers dumped these Windows-based exploits online, they essentially put a “powerful nation state-level attack tool in the hands of anyone who wants to download it to start targeting servers,” said one security firm. In other words, this means that common cyber thieves now have stronger, more malicious tools that can target and infect computers and networks with malware.
Businesses and Enterprises Are Most At-Risk
The NSA exploits released all target a variety of Windows-based environments and operating systems, including Windows 7 and Windows 8. And, while individual consumers could be at risk, experts say the leaked tools are actually more targeted at enterprises and businesses. Various reasons exist for this, such as corporations and companies notoriously failing to install updates, the fact that business networks allow the malware to spread more effectively, and because many businesses and companies are more likely to pay the ransom to release their files or system.
NSA Exploits Used Already
While the NSA has not acknowledged that their tools were used in recent cyber attacks, most digital experts (including Symantec) are saying that the NSA’s hacking tool, Eternal Blue, was used in the recent WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks.
Responses to NSA Leaked Exploits
Microsoft did release a patch for the exploits in March 2017, including one for Eternal Blue, but many companies and individuals failed to install it immediately. Unfortunately, widespread failure to download this patch in a timely manner led to the effectiveness of the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks. Those who did upgrade their system to Windows 7 or newer, however, were protected in both WannaCry and NotPetya.
Other responses include a demand for the NSA to “…take a leadership role in working closely with security and operating system platform vendors such as Apple and Microsoft to address the plague that they’ve unleashed.”
Create a Plan to Protect Your Company from Malware
One of the best ways to protect yourself from ransomware and other malware is to make sure you have a formal plan in place to address it — or better yet, prevent it. The problem is, many don’t. In fact, according to ISACA, a nonprofit that advocates for professionals involved in information security, assurance, risk management and governance, only 53% of organizations in 2016 said they had a formal way to address ransomware. If we want to effectively combat cyber threats — and stop their future growth — this percentage must rise. That means more companies, individuals, and governments must join the battle against malware.
An easy way to join the fight and start protecting your company from malware, like ransomware, is to make sure your software, browsers, and browser plug-ins are always up-to-date — especially Windows. Start by turning on Microsoft’s Auto Update, which tells you when updates are available for your computer. Next, make sure other software, like anti-virus suites, are up-to-date. Along with these ways to keep you computer secure, an even more effective way to combat cyber breaches is to contact an IT security company, like Integracon, who can set up and maintain a comprehensive IT security plan for your business or corporation.
The bottom line is, the need for intelligent and comprehensive cyber security is at an all-time high. Whether it’s a small company, a large corporation, or a personal computer, it’s becoming increasingly necessary to ensure that all protective measures are taken to secure and protect your digital files from cyber thieves and the future’s inevitable cyber attacks.