This past weekend the world was overwhelmed by the cyberattack that spread around the globe hitting businesses, hospitals, and government agencies in over 150 countries. The rapid spread of Ransomware based on WannaCry which exploits vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Windows operating system has been characterized by Europol Director, Rob Wainwright, as “…something we haven’t seen before”.
Why did this happen? Was it a failure of Cybersecurity professionals? Or something more insidious?
Unlike many previous Ransomware, this attack doesn’t spread by phishing emails or infected websites (browser based attacks) but uses the EternalBlue exploit developed by the U.S. National Security Agency to spread across networks and attack vulnerable computers which have not had recent security updates installed. Microsoft issued a “critical” patch on March 14, 2017, to remove the underlying vulnerability for supported systems. Surely, Cybersecurity professionals jumped into action and started patching all the machines on their networks to prevent an infection by WannaCry! Right? I guess not! So, why not????
I point to the lack of effective information governance as a root cause. I recently wrote about the importance of information governance and “Why Cybersecurity Pros Should Care About Governance”. A strong Information Governance Program would ensure that remediation and quick action is taken when a significant vulnerability like WannaCry is identified and a patch issued by Microsoft to protect against it. Most of the machines infected by this Ransomware should not have been affected. They should have been patched and widespread communications sent out to all members of the organization to be on alert for suspicious emails and to take protective actions for their personal machines at home.
Also, a strong Information Governance Program would ensure that end users are trained appropriately, and often, to recognize emails that serve as conduits for Ransomware and viruses and act appropriately to report it their Cybersecurity team while not infecting their machine and the network. I cannot stress the importance of a robust Information Governance Program which addresses the processes, procedures and human behaviors of managing information safely and effectively. My two articles address the cultural aspect of creating a culture of information management excellence: What Does Culture Have to Do with Information Management? and Creating a Culture of Information Management Excellence.
These are scary times and shoring up the “castle walls” or improving the “moat” around the castle is not enough by itself. The first step is to conduct an information risk assessment which will identify gaps and vulnerabilities that should be addressed immediately. If you need help with an information risk assessment or creating a robust Information Governance Program as well as a culture of Information Management excellence, don’t hesitate to contact me.