‘WannaCry’ Ransomware Attack a Wake-up Call For States

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The massive cyberattack that has infected computers in at least 150 countries this past week has struck at least one county and several universities, and it has prompted some state and local agencies to scramble to beef up their protections against the virus, Stateline reports. The virus showed up on computers in some Cook County, Il., government offices. MIT and several other universities reported that some of their computers also had been compromised. In Connecticut, the state court system briefly shut down some of its computers to update anti-virus software. Michigan state officials quickly began installing extra protection on servers, work stations and public kiosks.

State IT officials say they often don’t have enough money to effectively fight sophisticated cyber threats. And the scale of this one has made them even more concerned. “This is a big wake-up call because it is cyber disruption,” said Doug Robinson of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). “States and local government need to address this because it’s a serious threat. We have urged states to take action immediately.” Cybercriminals launched the fast-moving virus, dubbed “WannaCry,” last Friday. So far, it has infected more than 300,000 machines in countries from Russia to Brazil. Its victims have included Britain’s National Health Service, universities in China and Germany’s train system. Attackers used “ransomware,” malicious software that hijacks computer systems, encrypts data and locks machines, holding them hostage until victims pay a ransom. Hackers demanded $300 to $600 in bitcoin, digital currency that is transferred all over the internet, which makes payments difficult to trace.

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