On May 12, 2017, a young anesthesiologist was sitting in front of a computer in an administrative room at the Royal London Hospital, a major surgical and trauma center in northeast London.
It was lunchtime and he was quickly devouring his chicken curry and chips while simultaneously checking his email before he was called back into surgery. But the computer was giving him fits. He couldn’t log in, and it appeared the hospital email system was down… again.
Frustrated, he shared a collective grumble with the other doctors in the room who were also having trouble with their computers. This wasn’t exactly unusual, as they were all accustomed to computer problems across the hospital network. The computers were, after all, still running Windows XP, a nearly 20-year-old operating system.
As the young anesthesiologist stood up from the computer ready to concede, an IT administrator entered the room and told the staff that there was something more unusual going on. They rebooted one of the computers in the room to see if that would provide a quick and easy fix. It didn’t. And the IT administrator’s fear that a virus was spreading across the hospital’s network was soon confirmed.
Upon rebooting, the PC showed a red screen with a lock in the upper left corner. A simple message on the screen read, “Ooops, your files have been encrypted.” At the bottom of the screen, it demanded a $300 payment in bitcoin to unlock the machine.
The young anesthesiologist didn’t have much time to think about it, as he was called back into surgery. He scrubbed in, put on his mask and gloves, and reentered the operating room.
The computer problem was at the very back of his mind. He had to focus on the task at hand, which was to slowly wake a patient out of a medically-induced slumber while timing it just right to pull the breathing tube out.
As he focused on that task, he could hear some grumblings from the nurses in the room aggravated that the operating room’s computer wasn’t working as they tried to enter notes on the surgery’s outcome.
He finished his task and scrubbed out. But when he got into the hallway, the manager of the surgery center intercepted him and told him that all of his cases for the rest of the day had been canceled.
A cyberattack had hit not only the whole hospital’s network but a collection of five hospitals across East London. All of their computers were down.
With no patients to see, the young anesthesiologist spent the next hours helping the IT staff unplug computers around the hospital. But it wasn’t until he began to follow the news on his iPhone that he learned the full scale of the damage.
It wasn’t a targeted attack at hospitals in London, but an automated worm spreading across the internet. Within hours, it hit more than 600 doctor’s offices and clinics, leading to 20,000 canceled appointments, and wiped the files and data off dozens of machines at hospitals. Surgeries were being canceled, and ambulances were being diverted from emergency rooms
A Global Ransomware Attack
Cybersecurity researchers named the virus, or worm, WannaCry, after the .wncry extension it added to names after encrypting them. As it paralyzed machines and demanded a ransom, WannaCry was jumping from one machine to the next using a powerful piece of code called EternalBlue, which had been stolen from the National Security Agency (“NSA”) by a group of hackers known as the Shadow Brokers and leaked onto the internet a month earlier.
WannaCry spread around the world. It infected the German railway firm Deutsche Bahn, Sberbank in Russia, automakers Renault, Nissan, and Honda, police departments in India, as well as FedEx and Boeing.
Overall, it’s estimated to have infected more than 250,000 computers across 150 countries, inflicting between $4 billion and $8 billion in damages.
Of course, ransomware isn’t new. The first ransomware scheme emerged in 1989 with malware hidden on floppy disks. Victims saw a message saying their software lease had expired. To regain control of their system, the victims were instructed to mail a $189 cashier’s check or money order to an address in Panama.
Today, ransomware attacks are much more sophisticated. They can cripple corporations and governments. You may remember in May this year when the Colonial oil pipeline system was hacked before the company paid $4.4 million to regain control of the pipeline.
So far, this year alone, more than 17 U.S. networks have been hacked by ransomware, including an attack in June on the world’s largest meat supplier, JBS, that took down its beef and pork operations in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Ransomware is a major security threat for IT networks and has become one of the biggest categories of cybercrime. But cyberattacks continue to grow in frequency and sophistication. That means folks have to spend more to beef up their defenses against attacks.
Action To Take
I’ve been talking about how the growing threat of cybercrime will lead to major opportunities for investors in the coming years.
Make no mistake, this is nothing short of a megatrend — one that will allow us multiple opportunities to profit from the big players in this space. It’s also why this month’s recommendation over at Top Stock Advisor is a company right in the middle of this trend…
As I stated back in July, cyber theft is the fastest-growing crime in the United States. According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, global cybercrime costs are estimated to hit $6 trillion this year, up from $3 trillion in 2015. To put that $6 trillion figure into perspective, if cybercrime was measured as a country, then it would be the world’s third-largest economy after the U.S. and China.
The global cybersecurity market was valued at $167 billion in 2020, according to Grand View Research, and is expected to register a compound annual growth rate of nearly 11% from 2021 to 2028.
While I’ll reserve the name of my latest pick for my Top Stock Advisor subscribers, some names that I’ve discussed in the past include CrowdStrike (Nasdaq: CRWD), Okta, Inc. (Nasdaq: OKTA), and CyberArk Software (Nasdaq: CYBR).
Editor’s Note: The world’s richest billionaires — Musk, Bezos, and Branson… are in a FIERCE competition, battling it out in what media is calling the “billionaire space race”…
Each one of these guys plan to dominate the $2.5 trillion space industry — but ONE may have already won the race, thanks to a new technology that’s hovering above the earth as we speak. And the good news is that you and I can profit from it…
Go here to get the details right now.