An IT researchers shows on a giant screen a computer infected by ransomware in 2016.

An IT researchers shows on a giant screen a computer infected by ransomware in 2016.

It seems the malicious software known as WannaCry — which was unleashed on hospitals, individuals and a host of others last week — originated as an NSA tool that exploited a flaw in older Windows software.

Now Microsoft is calling out the NSA for “stockpiling” exploits like this.

WannaCry was “ransomware.” Once hackers got it on a computer, they were able to encrypt files and hold them for ransom, hoping users would pay to keep their data available to them and only them.

This wasn’t the first attack of its kind, and it’s highly unlikely to be the last. When these tools are being developed by governments and criminals alike, how should we protect ourselves, or should we start saving bitcoin in preparation for the inevitable?


  • Laura Galante Former director of global intelligence, FireEye: a cyber security company; former cyber threat intelligence analyst, Department of Defense
  • Michael Greenberger Founder and director, University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security; professor, University of Maryland Carey School of Law
  • Richard Clarke Former counterterrorism official, currently a consultant for ABC News, adjunct faculty member at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and author of "Against All Enemies" and "The Scorpion's Gate"

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