Recent Global Malware Attack is Cyber Warfare, Not Just Ransomware

A lot of people are paying close attention to the recent global ransomware outbreak. There are still a lot of conflicting reports regarding what is going on exactly, though. More information revealed by security researchers show the criminals behind this attack were not intent on making money. Instead, this is a clear example of how cyber warfare will be conducted in the coming years.

Ransomware Will Dominate Cyber Warfare Landscape

Even though people are still debating whether or not the latest ransomware attacks are due to Petya, the name is the least of people’s concerns right now. More specifically, it seems this global attack was never designed to make a lot of money. That is rather surprising, considering virtually all ransomware attacks are launched to make a quick buck. This latest malware wave does not fall into this category, though.

Two reports have been issued to confirm our earlier suspicions. This particular attack is designed to destroy computers and disrupt day-to-day operations of consumers and corporations alike. In fact, the reports hint at how this ransomware shouldn’t be labeled as ransomware either, since users will not be able to recover their files in any way. Instead, this malware is intent on destruction and havoc, making it a rather effective cyber warfare weapon.

To put this news into perspective, this particular malware does not generate a valid infection ID to identify its victims. Traditional ransomware on the other hand, generates unique IDs which are sent to the command & control server. As security researchers point out, this global attack doesn’t use such a server. Unfortunately, this also means there is no decryption key for users to obtain, even if they make the $300 payment in Bitcoin.

If that isn’t enough to worry about, recovering the original file is impossible as well. This malware encrypts the Master File Table, which keeps track of file locations on a hard drive. Making file recovery impossible and causing permanent damage to a hard drive is an aspect of what one would expect from cyber warfare tools. It is evident this global attack is not in the same league as WannaCry, but it is in a far more devious category of its own.

With no intention to make money, and not worrying about how much damage is done, the “NotPetya” developers have taken a very different path from most other ransomware coders. Moreover, the malware has capabilities to spread itself relatively quickly and cause even more mayhem in the process. Putting it in the ransomware category is not fair by any means, as this tool is far more sophisticated. Plus, it focuses less on holding files hostage, since they can’t be recovered regardless of what victims try to do.

Cyber warfare has become a very big problem in our Internet-connected society as of late. As devastating as this attack may be, it will probably pale in comparison compared to what the future may hold. Embedded “wipers” in ransomware is quickly becoming the new norm, which is not something to look forward to. It is evident more types of malware with data wiping capabilities will come to market in the coming months and years. The bigger question is how our society can adequately prepare for these types of attacks.

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