Has All Out Cyberwar begun?

The world might be experiencing all out cyberwarfare and few people are noticing. The massive ransomware attack that disrupted operations at Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) on May 12, looks like an act of politically-motivated cyberwarfare.

Around one in five of the NHS Trusts; the organizations that operate Britain’s hospitals was hit by the Wannacry ransomware, The Guardian reported. Computers were frozen throughout the system and operations were cancelled at several hospitals.

The attack is expected to spread to up to 8,000 NHS clinics on Monday, NHS Digital warned. Scanning and emergency room care was still suspended at the Barts Health NHS Trust hospitals in London on 15 May.

An ambulance waits outside the emergency department at St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, Britain May 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Is it Ransomware or Cyberwarfare?

The Wannacry attack looks like cyberwarfare because attackers have only gathered $42,000 in payment even though it locks computers and demands $300 in bitcoin. The attack looks designed to disrupt the NHS rather than to extort money.

The most logical explanation for this attack is that it is an effort to hurt British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative Party. May has scheduled a snap general election for June 8. A cyberattack on critical infrastructure just three weeks before that election does not seem like a coincidence.

Nor was this the first time a large scale cyberattack has preceded an election the Mirai botnet brought down several major US websites including PayPal, Netflix and Amazon on October 21, 2016. That was three weeks before the US presidential election.

Cyberwarriors Target Theresa May

A strong possibility here is that somebody is punishing Theresa May and the Conservatives for embracing Brexit. Another is that somebody is sending a message to politicians like May and U.S. President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) that refuse to embrace the global trade agenda.

Who that would be is impossible to say because they are covering their tracks well.  The ransom demands look like an attempt to distract investigators and disguise cyberwarfare as simple crime.

An obvious conclusion we can make here is that a government or an organization connected to a government; such as a contractor, is behind the attack. The purpose is clearly to hurt May and her government not to raise money.

Is US Intelligence Involved?

Another possibility is that the NHS was not the real target, somebody might have been trying to hurt Russia or another country and accidently hit British hospitals. One disturbing scenario here is that U.S. intelligence agencies launched a cyberattack on Russia that went awry.

A number of news stories have identified WannaCry as an intelligence tool developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Wannacry was one of a number of NSA and CIA cyberweapons leaked by the Shadow Brokers hacking crew in February, Forbes Writer Thomas Fox-Brewster noted.

This points to another explosive possibility; hackers perhaps those connected with Shadow Brokers got their hands on a CIA cyber weapon and used it for something else. One of the greatest dangers from cyberweapons is that they are easy to steal or copy.

Once a cyberweapon is lose on the web anybody can download it or copy it. Nor would it be hard for a disgruntled employee or contractor to swipe such a weapon from an intelligence agency.

This also raises the dangerous possibility that somebody; perhaps the NSA or CIA, created Wannacry and deliberately released it for hackers to find. The hackers then do the covert operatives’ dirty work for them; which provides a layer of plausible deniability.

Cyberweapons are simply bundles of code that can be easily downloaded and transmitted. They can be sent in an email or stored on $2 flash drive that fits in a person’s pocket. This makes security almost impossible and the possibility of such weapons falling into the wrong hands a certainty.

Will Britain Strike Back?

What’s truly frightening is that the WannaCry attack is from over. Malware Tech, the mysterious cybersecurity effort who identified it has said more assaults are expected when the work week begins on Monday May 15, 2017.

To make matters Her Majesty’s Government might strike back hard. Britain has one of the world’s most extensive, sophisticated and advanced cyberwarfare operations at General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

That means people all over the world might find themselves in the crossfire of a cyberwar between the Great Powers. If more medical facilities get hit innocent people might die or get seriously hurt.

The world’s governments need to take action now, by banning cyberwarfare and making a strong effort to suppress it. Two obvious first steps would be a treaty banning cyberwarfare and an international agency; modeled on the World Health Organization (WHO)  or Interpol, to fight it. Action needs to be taken now before innocent people get hurt.

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