Lawmakers to hold hearing on ‘Wanna Cry’ ransomware attack

Lawmakers to hold hearing on ‘Wanna Cry’ ransomware attack
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House lawmakers on Thursday will hold a hearing examining the “Wanna Cry” ransomware attack that spread to more than 150 countries and dealt a crippling blow to Britain’s national health system last month. 

The hearing is the first focusing on the ransomware, which broke out in mid-May and forced the Trump administration to convene emergency meetings to manage the damage. The impact of the ransomware, which exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, was minimal in the United States when compared to other nations. 

Members on two subpanels of the House Science Committee will hear testimony from individuals inside and outside the government about how the U.S. can better protect its systems against similar attacks.

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The witness list includes the director of the information technology laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the Commerce Department that produces a widely revered cybersecurity framework for use inside and outside the government.

Lawmakers and government officials have pointed to the small impact of the ransomware inside the U.S. as evidence of the government’s successful response. 

“That was a direct result — not just [the Department of Homeland Security] but to a large degree DHS — in how that was detected initially, how we working with our partners outside the U.S. government as well as inside, pretty impressive,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said when testifying on the fiscal 2018 budget request in late May.

Still, Wanna Cry intensified concerns over the threat of ransomware and also renewed scrutiny of the process by which the government decides whether to disclose previously unknown software vulnerabilities to the private sector. 

The Wanna Cry exploit is widely believed to be based on an alleged National Security Agency hacking tool leaked by the Shadow Brokers group earlier this year. While Microsoft had issued a patch for its supported operating systems in March before the tool was leaked, many systems around the world remained unpatched when the ransomware broke out in May.

Thursday’s hearing will also feature testimony from representatives of cybersecurity firms Kryptos Logic and Symantec, as well as a cybersecurity and risk management professor at Carnegie Mellon University. 

The ransomware attack began to wreak havoc on May 12 and attacks started to slow after three days.