Nashville security firms discuss cyberattack protection | Crain's Nashville

Nashville security firms discuss cyberattack protection

After recent WannaCry attacks, experts say it's necessary to stay diligent about your computer hygiene. Photo by Hillary via Flickr. 

In the wake of WannaCry, one of the biggest cyberattacks yet, both business professionals and consumers remain unsure of how to protect against ransomware and other types of computer-related crimes. But according to several Nashville cybersecurity companies, it’s not hard for local businesses to stay protected and informed.

So what happened?

The WannaCry cyberattack was a perfect storm, said Bill Dean, senior manager in LBMC's Information Security Services division.

“About six weeks ago, someone released all of the NSA hacking tools that they used to break in and maintain access to computer systems," Dean explained. "[The hackers] were able to get vulnerability information as well as exploits. Microsoft struggled with that and was not able to release all of the applicable patches" in a timely fashion, Dean said. 

The compromised intelligence, coupled with increasingly sophisticated ransomware technology, formed one of the worst scenarios Dean said he has ever seen.

“From an information security perspective, we've not seen something this destructive since about 2002 that would spread across the internet by itself,” Dean said. 

According to Teddy Ansink from Nashville cybersecurity firm Sword & Shield, the worm infiltrated about 200,000 computers utilizing outdated Windows operating systems in some 140 countries. While we will never know the precise extent of the attack, several multinational corporations were hit, including FedEx, Nissan, Telefonica and the U.K.’s largest health care system, NHS.  

As to who was hit in Tennessee, Dean said that was difficult to determine, but there is a high probability that many computers were affected.  

“Just about any company is vulnerable,” Ansink said.

“Clients are nervous,” explained Leigh Anne Strickland of local insurance and risk management company Anderson Benson. "The days of ‘It will never happen to me’ are waning, and we have seen incidents of cyberextortion with some of our current clients. There is more acknowledgment that this type risk could happen to them both personally and professionally.”

Ansink is concerned about what's coming down the tech pike. “The thing that I'm worried about is this next-generation malware that is coming out," he said. "It's difficult to locate, it can be hard to pinpoint when they were received, and they're becoming self-healing.”

Protecting your business

But the experts pointed out that protecting yourself or your business from future attacks is not nearly as difficult as you may think. To protect yourself and your business, the first thing you need to do is patch your current version of Windows as well as any third-party applications like Adobe and Office.

Next, you need to practice good computer hygiene and educate those around you, as well. Dean recommends that every organization needs to email their employees to make them aware of ongoing threats – and stress that antivirus applications and firewalls shouldn’t be relied on to block everything.  On the insurance side, quality cybercrime and data breach coverage should no longer be treated as optional, according to Strickland. Along with a good insurance plan, “companies should be actively working with their IT departments to develop robust and frequently updated disaster recovery plans.”

In the future?

Dean believes the next route the hackers will use is through attachments, and although it seems simple, reminds users not to open attachments from people you aren't expecting them from.

“If you want to watch that cat video, just watch it on YouTube,” Ansink joked. 

May 22, 2017 - 12:07pm