Global attack shows the future of Cyber War

A cyber security expert at Charles Sturt University (CSU) believes the future of cyber warfare is here after the global 'malware' attack over the weekend.

Associate Professor Tanveer Zia, from the CSU's School of Computing and Mathematics, said the attack is a true example of the future of cyber warfare. 

"Imagine a nuclear bomb is stolen from a highly-protected government facility and used against the governments and public," Professor Zia said.

"This is how the attack emerged last Friday when hackers used stolen malicious software, or 'malware', from the US National Security Agency to infect thousands of computer systems in nearly 100 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Spain, the United Kingdom (UK) and Taiwan. 

"High level targets have included the National Health Service in the UK, Spanish telecom Telefonica, Portugal Telecom, Russia's telecom Megafon and Interior Ministry, and FedEx in USA.

"Dubbed as the biggest cyber attack in history, the scale of the event is still being assessed. However, to date the attack has cancelled medical operations and diverted ambulances in the UK; infected 85 per cent of Telefonica computers and caused its Spanish employees to shut them down; interrupted operations in Megafon call centres; and infected around 1,000 computers in Russia's Interior Ministry."

The malware, titled 'WanaCryptor' or 'WannaCry', is a ransomware which locks a system and demands money in cryptocurrency Bitcoins to unlock the 'hostage' system.

"While few attacks have been reported in Australia, the risk is still there and our cyber security agencies need to remain vigilant.

"This is a wake-up call.

Professor Zia warns security breaches will increase in frequency and recommends computer users must have the latest operating system upgrades installed on their computers. 

"Upgrading individual machines or those in small organisations seems a simple task. It becomes administratively more complex when there are thousands of machines involved, connected to national systems.

"This makes us all responsible for global cyber security," he said.