If Those Behind Ransomware Attack are School Bullies of the Internet Age are CyberSecurity Professionals the Digital Dinner Ladies?

When I imagine what a cybercriminal looks like immediately conjure up a picture not too dissimilar to the stereotypical nerd, a character from The Big Bang Theory that became drawn to the dark side. I don’t think of them in the same way as the horrible children I went to school with back in the 80s, who would steal our football and demand Monster Munch, or worse a Wagon Wheel in exchange for its safe return.

In recent weeks, I have come to realise that the people behind ransomware attacks such as WannaCry and Petya are just the playground bullies of the digital age. The difference is that their playground is much larger. Whether they are starved of attention, or are looking to make a profit, either way their behaviour should not be tolerated. The problem with tackling the issue is also similar to the antics in the school grounds. Our Digital Dinner Ladies (I bet you are now thinking of a cybersecurity professional you know dressed in a tabard!) are doing what they can, but the bully isn’t afraid of them, after all what real authority do they have. He either gets his tuck-shop treat, or the ball goes over the fence, or stabbed with a compass!

So, the problem goes on. We feared the bully, we wanted our ball back and so we paid the ransom. He knew we would succumb and cough-up so, the next day he did the same. Then another bully spotted our weakness and did the same so on and so on. The cycle was only brought to an end when we move to the ‘big school’ but that brought with it a whole new world of turmoil.

Of course, the received wisdom by any parent is that you must stand up to the bully. If they hit you then you hit them back even harder, then they won’t do it again. However, in the digital age, we don’t get to confront our bullies face-to-face, all we can do is chose whether to open our digital wallets and hand over a stash of virtual Wagon Wheels. What’s more, just as in the school days we are unlikely to tell those in positions of power what is going on, as we are embarrassed or fear the ramifications. So, therefore the scale of the problem goes largely unnoticed.

It is for this reason that I strongly suspect those bullies that are spreading ransomware have realised that the game is now changing. The rolling news coverage has made everyone aware of what is going.  We all know that we have a global problem with bullies and whilst we may not have a solution to stop all of them, it is getting harder for them to eat all of the Wagon Wheels they collect without getting caught. So, they are either going to have to stop, or find another way to pick on us.

The bullies may have just made life harder for themselves.

Author: Graham Thatcher, Chief PR Ltd