The United States has the recent global ransomware attack "under control," but it could "morph into a more difficult and threatening manner," White House Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert said Monday.
"I think people heading to work this morning should be thinking about this as an attack that for right now we've got under hold," Bossert, who serves as President Donald Trump's cybersecurity adviser, told ABC's "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos.
"[This is] an attack that represents an extremely serious threat, not just a criminal threat, but this criminal threat has turned into something that has affected hospitals in the United Kingdom and elsewhere."
The attacks came in the form of a ransomware worm called WannaCry, which disrupted operations at hospitals, factories, schools and more. Bossert Monday applauded Microsoft for releasing a patch for the worm in March, and for "having worked with us since 2014 to develop that process."
However, the patch is not installed worldwide or even in all places, said Bossert, and he warned people who have neither installed the patch or updated their software that it is "imperative you do so to get through this and continue to get through this, as the inevitable morphing and variance of this attack will change over the week."
Over the weekend, Microsoft President Brad Smith blamed a hacking tool stolen from the National Security Agency, and Bossert said he is "absolutely right that this is an urgent call for collective action."
People at every level need to "engage in network hygiene," which is not necessarily the nicest thing to always talk about," Bossert said. "We need government action, collective action abroad and with the United States to address this type of attack."
But regardless of what was used to commit the cyberattack, it was "criminals that distributed it and criminals that weaponized it, added additional details to it and turned this into something that is holding ransom data but putting at risk lives and hospitals," said Bossert.
It hasn't been completely ruled out that a government was behind the cyberattacks, but Bossert said he believes criminals were behind the action because of the attempts to hold computer systems hostage for ransom "suggests an intent to try to develop money."
Bossert also said that businesses who find themselves victims of ransomware attacks, even hospitals, should not pay the ransom to have their computer systems freed.
"The U.S. government doesn't make a recommendation on paying ransom," said Bossert. "You're dealing with people who are not scrupulous, so making a payment does not mean you'll get your data back."
The most important thing businesses and individuals can do is install their network patches and enable automated patching on their systems, and they should update their software.
"I would say we're not yet out of the woods," said Bossert. "We have an additional concern that copycats as we've seen in the past will provide variance to this tool and continue to come after us."
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