Ransomware attack is a wake-up call

By   |  Published: 17th May 2017  11:46 pmUpdated: 17th May 2017  11:50 pm
Niranjan Chintam, founder and chairman, Kellton Tech.

Ransomware locks your keyboard or computer to prevent you from accessing your data until you pay a ransom, usually demanded in Bitcoin. The digital extortion phenomenon is not new but attackers have improved with the development of ransom cryptware that encrypts your files using a private key that only the attacker possesses, instead of simply locking your keyboard or computer.

The most recent global cyberattack spread ransomware to multiple computers over 150 countries. Niranjan Chintam, founder and chairman, Kellton Tech tells Y V Phani Raj that a renewed attack with more sophisticated code could be possible.

Excerpts from the interview:
1. What do you think is the impact on India? 

The impact has been minimal so far. The sectors worst affected seem to be finance and healthcare.

The losses from the attack cannot be quantified, for this attack appears to be aimed at disrupting business more than any other ulterior motive. The businesses will recover from their backup soon. Also, the ransom demanded, about US $40,000, is not an impossibly high amount.

That the spread of this attack was halted by 22-old researcher from England, who accidentally activated its kill switch by registering a domain name hidden in malware, points to the amateurish attempt. That said, there may be a renewed attack with more sophisticated code.

2. How do you see the preparation levels of Indian government and industry at such situations?

Since the impact was minimal, we cannot gauge the preparedness levels of Indian government and industry. However, our government has been quick to get into discussions with Microsoft for the required patch up.

3. Are we cyber secured for future?

I am not satisfied with the prevailing cyber security standards. There is a lack of sufficient awareness about these things, and I hope that this serves as a wake-up call to our people. Both government and IT community have a shared responsibility in educating people about the pitfalls of inadequate security consciousness.

I can speak for our company though. Despite being a weekend, my team had a keen eye on developments. I sent an email alerting all our employees about the outbreak, and imparting precautionary measures to safeguard our systems.

4. What should be done?

I feel that the Indian IT ecosystem still does not have necessary security consciousness. There must be a concerted attempt to diversify technologies being used for risk diversification and minimisation.

5. What are the lessons learnt?

We need to be more up-to-date with respect to technology updates. Even with Ransomware, the patch up for Microsoft XP glitch was available since March, and yet many people didn’t get their systems updated. We need to inculcate better standards and best practices in the industry and there must be a constant engagement with Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) globally. The security concerns must be given more visibility and priority.

In today’s world of interdependency and interconnectedness, any worm anywhere has the potential to quickly spread across the globe. Therefore, we must be on the top of vulnerabilities and be thoroughly prepared for any eventuality.