The price of online freedom is eternal vigilance. That's the lesson cyber thugs keep shoving in our faces with attacks that steal identities, freeze networks, and make computer data disappear. Most recently, the extortion ransomware called WannaCry (or sometimes WannaCrypt) took out older Windows operating systems running crucial networked computers for hospitals, universities, and car factories, from Britain to Russia, India to Taiwan, in Latin America and Africa. The spread to the United States was stymied by a computer whiz who uncovered a blocking strategy.
Some accusatory fingers have been pointed at Microsoft for creating software patches back in March but then not yelling "Update your software, people!!!" Sure made for an impactful "upgrade" lesson.
Worming in as a viral email zip file attachment, WannaCry can attack only vintage Windows 8 software and the older, more popular Windows XP operating system, which Microsoft stopped supporting in 2014 after offering a free OS upgrade to those who had paid for the software. But lots of operations were lax or ran bootlegged versions of XP.
And let us not ignore where WannaCry came from. It was stolen by hackers, reportedly North Koreans operating inside China, from the cyber-weapons arsenal of our own National Security Agency. So we have met the enemy and it is us.
As Federal Trade Commissioner Terrell McSweeny suggested on C-SPAN, some blame for invasions and lockups can be put on internet service providers, which could be better gatekeepers, and on companies that make easily hacked IOT (internet of things)-connected gadgets.
The FTC is now bringing action against dozens of hardware makers that don't follow "best practices rules" to safeguard consumer privacy and security, she said. And the commission would press broadband service providers harder to do the right thing, were its mission legally blessed by Congress and not being challenged in federal court (by AT&T Mobility).
So where does all that leave us consumers? Don't wait for Congress to rescue you. It's time to take the law into your own hands.