Well, here we go again.
Another massive ransomware attack is spreading around the globe as we speak, just a month after the WannaCry ransomware attack. Initial reports of businesses being impacted by the Petya malware came from Russia and Ukraine, but within hours the attack had gone global.
As John Carlin, chairman of Aspen Institute cybersecurity and technology program says in one CNBC interview on the Petya ransomware attack, “If you’re a business, you are vulnerable.” And while many might expect a larger infrastructure to have better safeguards in place against such cybersecurity issues, it’s clear that businesses of any size are at risk, as pharmaceutical giant Merck became the first major U.S. company to announce being impacted by the ransomware.
On the heels of the WannaCrypt attack, I shared The 3 Biggest Lessons to be Learned from WannaCrypt, and now with this latest outbreak, I want to reiterate what organizations can do to avoid the next Petya and dwell even further on what I believe is the single most important measure on the cyberattack prevention to-do list:
YOU MUST PATCH.
Really, when it comes to cybersecurity, you have two choices: keep up with patching in your IT environment, or suffer the consequences. It’s only a matter of time.
Why Businesses Are Failing at Cybersecurity
One would assume that businesses that were not impacted by WannaCry would have wiped their brows, thanked their lucky stars, and quickly implemented better patching procedures before the next inevitable cyberattack. However, as stated in Tech Crunch’s article on this latest attack, “Everything about this situation indicates that plenty of governments and companies around the world didn’t take WannaCry seriously, failed to patch their systems and are now paying the price.”
Why? I can only surmise a couple of reasons.
First, perhaps the sense of urgency died down alongside the reduced coverage of the WannaCry cyberattack. Businesses may have developed a false sense of security. But, just because you aren’t hearing about WannaCry or Petra or any other major security issue in the news anymore doesn’t mean you’re safe. And it certainly doesn’t mean your patching procedures are acceptable. Large or small, newsworthy or not, additional malicious attacks will continue to exploit the vulnerabilities discovered and businesses will always be at risk.
Second, patching can be complex and time consuming, and it can often fall to the bottom of the priority list until it’s too late. However, while no one may think they have time to patch, no one has time to fight malware either. I recently spoke with one business impacted by the WannaCry attack whose IT staff spent four straight days – around the clock – resolving the situation. Talk about disruptive! The strain on their manpower and loss of money from this single incident could have been completely avoided had their patching procedures been better.
How to Avoid the Next Petya
It’s understandable that some organizations may find themselves in between a rock and a hard place when it comes to patching. As previously mentioned, it’s not simple and it can be a time-consuming process. Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions that can substantially lighten the load.
For one, Microsoft has made major strides in the realm of security with Windows 10. The Windows 10 defense stack offers a breadth of options to protect, detect and respond to threats, as outlined in their overview on threat mitigation. I highlighted a few of the best Windows 10 security features in my recent webinar, “How Windows 10 Drives Business Value.”
Another great option when it comes to managing patching procedures is to take advantage of automation. Utilizing automated server patching can take the complex, mundane, time-consuming task of patching and make it far simpler than ever before. Advancements in PowerShell-based automation and integration with System Center Configuration Manager have made it easy to relieve the burden of server patching and management.
The latest ransomware attack has once again proven that so many organizations have room to grow as it relates to security, and maintaining sound patching procedures is the best way to prevent Petya and other such cybersecurity issues. And while patching has kept many an IT person up late into the night over the weekend, advancements in technology are making it simpler than ever to relieve the burden.