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Authorities worldwide are mopping up after an international ransomware attack disrupted hospitals, factories, government agencies, banks and businesses in 150 countries over the past few days. The latest clues point to hackers possibly linked to North Korea.

In what looks to be an unrelated cyber attack, hackers reportedly shanghaied the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. The crooks threatened to splash it onto the Internet before the film's scheduled May 26 release if Disney didn't fork over a ransom in bitcoin.

Experts warn that worldwide ransomware attacks could bloom again in the coming weeks. They warn that many computers running outdated (or stolen) software could be vulnerable to hackers who pilfer data, or hold it hostage for ransom.

Hmm. When have we read about similar breaches and often heard similar warnings about computer vulnerabilities?

Oh, right. In 2016 when the Russians were roaming through the Democratic National Committee's email system.

Or in 2015, when the U.S. government revealed that hackers stole a massive trove of data from the federal Office of Personnel Management, exposing sensitive information about millions of people, including federal employees, contractors and their families and friends.

Or when hackers spread Sony's secrets across the Internet in 2014.

Or when Russian cybercriminals stole data on more than 500 million Yahoo accounts the same year.

The big questions: Will this latest spate of attacks be a wake-up call to upgrade protections around the world? Or will many people hit the snooze button again?

Microsoft blamed the U.S. government for "stockpiling" software code wielded by the hackers in ransomware attacks. The company's top lawyer argued that the government should report the weaknesses it discovers rather than hold them as weapons to use later. Microsoft attorney Brad Smith wrote that "an equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen."

The criminals who unleashed this latest ransomware virus didn't have to be computer geniuses. New tools make this kind of cyber extortion much easier. Mad skills aren't needed.

What is needed, however, is for computer users--all of us--to please not neglect upgrading security or changing passwords. Don't assume that because our devices haven't yet been captured, they won't be.

Editorial on 05/20/2017

Print Headline: Don't help the hackers

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