Ransomware Attack Has Global Impact, Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Counter Hacking
On May 12, a cyberattack spread around the world, affecting more than 230,000 computers in roughly 150 countries, according to a statement issued by the American Bankers Association. The ransomware, known as “WannaCry,” was used to exploit a vulnerability that affects computers running Microsoft Windows (see Department of Homeland Security Alert). Users of infected computers received a message that their files had been encrypted and that they must pay a ransom in bitcoin in order to decrypt their files. However, as conveyed in a press release issued by the Financial Services - Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), it appears that the majority of the attacks seem to be targeting and impacting non-financial sector entities globally. FS-ISAC “believes the current attacks utilize known vulnerabilities for which there are available software patches,” but that firms and service providers need to implement the patches. Agencies continue to monitor what may be the first in a series of attacks.
SEC Office of Compliance and Examinations (OCIE) and FBI Issue Responses. The OCIE released a statement cautioning registrants to be vigilant in mitigating risk, and noted a recent OCIE study that determined a substantial number of registrants did not conduct periodic risk assessments, penetration tests, or vulnerability scans, while a smaller number had not updated critical security patches. The OCIE also provided links to guidance on cybersecurity risk management. Likewise, the FBI issued a bulletin providing guidance on additional protection measures following the attack.
Bipartisan Legislation Introduced. On May 17, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House and Senate to add transparency and accountability to the federal government process for retaining or disclosing vulnerabilities in technology products, services, applications, and systems. The bill, Protecting our Ability To Counter Hacking (PATCH) Act, follows the apparently leaked NSA hacking tool which opened the door to the global “WannaCry” ransomware attack. It is sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Haw.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Cal.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.). As described in a release issued by Sen. Schatz’s office, the proposed legislation would make the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP) more permanent, while altering its structure. It would also make the Department of Homeland Security the chair of the interagency board overseeing the VEP. Under the bill, the NSA and other security agencies would still be a permanent part of the board, while other agencies and the White House's National Security Council could attend meetings if the board deems it necessary. The established board would also produce a report for Congress on the policies it establishes regarding the disclosure of vulnerabilities no later than 180 days after the enactment of the Act. An unclassified version of the report will be publicly available as well. “Striking the balance between U.S. national security and general cybersecurity is critical, but it's not easy,” Sen. Schatz noted. “This bill strikes that balance. Codifying a framework for the relevant agencies to review and disclose vulnerabilities will improve cybersecurity and transparency to the benefit of the public while also ensuring that the federal government has the tools it needs to protect national security.”
Coalition for Cybersecurity Policy and Law. The legislation has already received support. The Coalition issued the following statement in support of the proposed bill: “We support the goals of the PATCH Act and we look forward to working with Chairman Johnson, Senators Schatz and Gardner, and Reps. Lieu and Farenthold as it moves forward in both chambers. The events of the past week clearly demonstrate the real-world consequences of exploited vulnerabilities. Governments have a critical role in getting vulnerability information to organizations capable of acting to protect security in a timely manner upon discovery.”