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Constant vigilance needed to avoid future cyber attacks

May 18, 2017

Two George Mason University professors say cyber attacks similar to the one that recently affected Europe, Asia and parts of the United States are likely to happen again if critical structures dependent on real-time data don’t constantly maintain their vigilance.

Massimiliano Albanese, associate director at George Mason’s Center for Secure Information Systems, and Jean-Pierre Auffret, associate director for Mason’s Center for Assurance Research and Engineering, worry that the sense of urgency will diminish as the memory of the most recent attack recedes.

“We don’t seem to be learning the lessons,” Albanese said. “Incidents keep happening.”

The “WannaCry” ransomware, believed to be the largest online extortion attack ever, according to the Associated Press, struck at least 100,000 organizations in 150 countries last week. Victims using several older Microsoft Windows versions, such as Windows XP and Windows 8, were forced to pay a ransom to unlock their networks and regain access to their data.

The United States was largely unscathed, as American companies typically update their systems more frequently and invest more in cybersecurity than do their counterparts from around the globe, Albanese said.

Microsoft in March made a patch available that could have prevented the malware from wresting control of so many companies.

“It’s a big risk for organizations that rely on information in real-time like hospitals,” Auffret said.

Companies should continue to update their systems, invest in cybersecurity and have extensive plans in place for back-up systems that would preserve their data in the event of another attack, both professors said.

Massimiliano Albanese can be reached at malbanes@2gmu.edu or 703-993-1629.

Jean-Pierre Auffret can be reached at jauffret@gmu.edu or 703-993-5641.

For more information, contact John Hollis at 703-993-8781 or jhollis2@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 35,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.