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5 Reasons Why WannaCry's Cyber Attacks Create a Nightmare for the Corporate World

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This week's cyber attacks were a (literal) shock to the system. Unexpected, global repercussions left few countries untouched, and everyone wondering - is this just the essence of the age we're living in - that some foreign body can slip a bug into some innocuous email and hey presto they have our medical records detailing our (perhaps sordid) past?


It is indeed a terrifying prospect. How many links a day do you click on from your boss? How many zip file downloads in a week? It appears that despite whatever preventative measures you've put in place to stop hackers from getting on your computer, they're able to get by them. What does this mean for business? Nothing really, apart from doomsday itself.

The reason attacks like this don't get solved is because of a number of factors, the most compelling of which is victim co-operation. If a company reveals their system has been hacked, it can translate into a massive dive in stock prices requiring innumerable contingency plans to be put in place. Customer trust itself is invariably lost, and a steady dip in revenue will result until WannaCry have left the headlines and the PR nightmare is finally over.

Below are the reasons why hackers like WannaCry should scare the living daylights out of businesses everywhere.

1. They have the ability to infect even the most complex and broad systems, such as Britain's healthcare organization

All eyes are on the U.K after WannaCry got into what is one of the bedrocks of any country: its healthcare system. Locked out of computers and files, nurses and doctors within the NHS experienced difficulty carrying out even the most menial of tasks once the hackers got into their computers. There is speculation that because of the time it took to regain control of their entire network, lives were lost in the process. Like any healthcare provider throughout the world, the NHS is a business at its core. Having already been under scrutiny by the parties lobbying for favor in the upcoming British election, this cannot have been an easy week in the office for the IT department and those in PR, dealing with those whose information were too readily available for the hackers.

2. They don't care who they're targeting, hitting corporations big and small

The virus that infected the machines was called Ransomware, a malicious piece of software that blocks access to a computer system until a ransom is paid. One of the targets of the hack was Disney's next movie release, Pirates of the Caribbean 5. Hackers threatened to post the forthcoming film online in segments unless Disney paid the ransom in bitcoin. Disney's CEO Bob Iger has not budged, however, and refused to pay the ransom, instead working with federal investigators in the US. FedEx has also been hit in the US, but has said that it has “resumed normal operations,” and that its computer systems were healthy again.

In Asia, the situation seems less hopeful. More than 40,000 organizations were hit, 4,000 them academic institutions, including two of China’s most prestigious schools.

3. Their methods of monetary extraction are virtually untraceable, using the elusive bitcoin - making another attack a veritable promise

Bitcoin is a digital payment system invented by an unknown programmer, or group of programmers, under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. It was released in 2008 and has since been used in countless transactions within the 'dark web'. The transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary, and as such cannot be traced because there is no third party involved. Once WannaCry had access to the computers they put up a ransom on the homepage requesting $300 via bitcoin for their computer to return to normalcy. 'Following the money trail' however does not apply here. Bitcoin, with close ties to North Korea, remains a stable monetary system.

4. Unless every single victim owns up to the breach, the likelihood of these hackers being caught is very low

It can be hard to pinpoint the extent of disruption, since some companies don’t report the attacks for fear of potential damage to their corporate reputations. For some companies, it’s easier to pay the $300 ransom, and then move on. This makes it more difficult for a comprehensive investigation to be carried out using international agencies. Again, this is another opportunity for a hack like this to be carried out with as much ease and destruction.

5. There were people and prevalent agencies that were aware this malware existed and did nothing to safeguard against such a breach

The Chinese government has placed the blame on the NSA for the attacks because apparently they had knowledge of the malware used to invade people's computers. The U.S government and its agencies are meant to act as safeguards for the countries' individuals and their corporations, and in this case, they majorly failed. What is the purpose of a security agency - if not to provide security? WannaCry have managed to expose a major hole in the so-called network of agencies charged with protecting the country's corporate and economic infrastructure. The effect from this and governmental uncertainty in general was a sharp decline in the value of the dollar. All in all, it was a bad week for all in business here in the U.S.

Nasdaq confirmed the dollar dipped this week amid political uncertainty. Photo courtesy of Barrons

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.