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

News

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

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.