News 19 May 2017
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
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.