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September 2017, Vol. 19, No. 7

Why WannaCry and other computer worms may inherit the earth

Using a self-replicating computer program to deliver malware on a target network is an old trick. Like most things on the internet, computer worms come from an innocent enough past. Over time, the use of worms moved down a predictable path, from computer-savvy engineers who were experimenting to the criminal realm to the rise of nation-sponsored cyberespionage groups. Why should this matter to CISOs? As global cyberattacks have exploded in recent months, computer worms are causing collateral damage, not only to nation-states, but to corporate valuations and financial performance. In June, FedEx warned that the Petya cyberattack, which disrupted operations at its TNT Express subsidiary, may have "material impact" on the company's 2017 financial performance. Merck & Co. Inc., another victim of the June attack, issued a similar warning. A computer worm is similar to a computer virus, but it has distinct characteristics. Unlike spear-phishing emails, worms do not require a delivery system; instead, they attack the ports and ...

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