Ransomware a wake-up call to strengthen cyber security

By Zhang Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/16 0:31:57

Since Friday, tens of thousands of computers worldwide were crippled by a mammoth ransomware attack called "WannaCry." It is believed that the victims identified so far could be just the tip of the iceberg, as the malicious code is transmuting rapidly around the world.

The attack was spread through a vulnerability that was leaked in a trove of cyber weapons built by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Users of the computers affected are demanded to pay a ransom in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

The NSA and other spy agencies look for software vulnerabilities and exploit them for intelligence gathering or law enforcement, which has become a great concern among tech people. Many blamed the US government for the WannaCry infection, and intentionally or not, Washington has responded in a low-profile way.

Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, sharply criticized the NSA for its role in weaponizing a weakness in the Windows operating system and allowing it to be stolen and used by hackers to launch this massive cyber attack.

China was also hit hard by the attack. According to media reports, about 40,000 institutions have been affected; of those, 4,000 were academic, including Tsinghua University and Peking University.

The US has invested enormously in developing cyber attack weapons, but not enough in guaranteeing cyber security. In the end, even Washington is subject to its own cyber offense.

The latest attack serves as a wake-up call at a time when global cyber security is at risk. No country has absolute control over non-state destructive actions in the cyber sphere. While we enjoy the convenience brought by the Internet, we are all exposed to loopholes in cyber governance. Hackers can blackmail the whole world, but governments have no idea who exactly they are and are not able to tell their people what to do.

Hackers have no boundaries. Nonetheless, each government keeps on high alert against each other in cyber governance and joint efforts against cyber crimes haven't been achieved.

If the ransomware attack continues to spread, its impact would be no less than that of weapons of mass destruction. Compared with geopolitical conflicts, a cyber war is a more urgent challenge facing mankind.

The construction of a secure cyber system must keep pace with the development of cyber usage. China has led the way in defining and legitimizing cyber sovereignty and supported rulemaking with an underlined concept of sovereignty. As cyber governance has become a global issue, only a coordinated system can effectively cope with the current Internet disorder. The US should play its due role to encourage the international community to devote to jointly cracking down on cyber crimes.


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