The Atlantic

How Soon Until the Next Ransomware Catastrophe?

WannaCry is the first global crisis to come from NSA exploits. It will not be the last.
Source: Symantec / Reuters

A little over a week ago, a Cumbrian woman named Joyce broke her foot. What happened next to Joyce’s foot involves the National Security Agency, decades of deferred maintenance on broken software, a hacking group that communicates exclusively in broken English, and an unsophisticated piece of ransomware, all interacting with the global network that almost everyone depends on now.

The success of the WannaCry ransomware that tore through Eurasia over the weekend required a chain of failures. Stopping any one of these failures could have stopped the crisis, and could still stop some of the crises that might otherwise occur. This makes a difference the in lives of normal people who have nothing to do with any of these global players in the computer security game, and it frustrates them.

“Embarrassing that my home PC [is] vastly better tech than the vastly more important health service,” Leslie, a retired electrician in South Cumbria, tweeted on Sunday.

Leslie’s wife, Joyce, is a home-care worker. As she left a client’s house earlier this month, she tripped over the threshold of the door. Joyce knew something was wrong with her foot, and drove herself to the emergency room at Furness General, in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England. She was X-Rayed, fitted with a plaster cast, and instructed to return for a follow-up appointment. By then, the swelling had improved.

Before she left, she was given another appointment for Friday, May 12. It turned out to be the day the NHS fell victim to the largest ransomware attack in history.

When

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