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Make cyber security a priority in 2018

Johnson City Press • Dec 29, 2017 at 12:00 AM

The WannaCry malware attack earlier this year 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 focused a spotlight on a dire problem that local, state and federal governments, as well as businesses large and small must take more seriously in 2018

Officials estimate global financial losses resulting from the May computer hack to total more that $4 billion. It’s more than 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. 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.

It’s not just private computer servers that come under attack. Officials with Tennessee’s Department of Safety and Homeland Security say the state deals with thousands of cyber attacks a day from both domestic and foreign sources. 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.”

That’s a good start, but much more is needed from both public and private entities that offer important services, such as electricity, water or medical care. All institutions should be required by law to report all hacking incidents to the proper law enforcement authorities.

Keeping it quiet and paying the ransom does not deter these criminals. Instead, it places the lives and livelihoods of Americans at risk.

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