Cyber attacks are costly and dangerous

Johnson City Press • May 19, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Last week's WannaCry malware attack that crippled computers in 150 countries has called attention to cyber criminals holding public records and essential services hostage until they are paid a ransom. It is a problem governments and businesses must take very seriously.

Officials estimate global financial losses resulting from the computer hack to total more that $4 billion. But it's not just an economic problem. Lives were put into jeopardy by the cyber attack.

In Great Britain, WannaCry infected the National Health Service's medical data system with a ransomware that prevented key medical records from being accessed.

Similar cyber hostage situations were reported by other organizations. Equally troubling is the thought many more ransoms may have been paid for such data without the public ever knowing about it.

That’s because some victims of the crime refuse to report it to law enforcement out of fear it will lead to other cyber attacks and bad publicity for their organizations.

And it is not just private computer servers that come under attack. Officials with Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security told the Press last year that the state deals with thousands of cyber attacks a day from both domestic and foreign sources.

As a result, Gov. Bill Haslam has developed a public safety plan that creates a cyber security advisory council to “establish and oversee implementation of a comprehensive cyber security plan for the executive branch of state government.” It’s a good start, but much more is needed.

Both public and private entities that offer important services (such as electricity, water or medical care) should be required by law to report all hacking incidents to the proper law enforcement authorities. Simply keeping it quiet and paying the ransom is no way to deter these criminals.

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