This may come as a shock to you, but there are other crises going on in the world that don’t necessarily involve Trump and Russia (at least not in the conventional sense). Unfortunately, this particular crisis doesn’t have pee hookers, missile launches over the desert, or Paul Manafort’s Ukranian murder money. Don’t worry though, there’s still a catastrophe, deep state espionage, and shadowy figures.
You probably heard about the WanaCry hack that crippled computers all over Not America last weekend. It’s ok if you didn’t notice the inarticulate screams from that nerdy friend or coworker because you were shrieking about Comey getting “You’re Fired.” After all, who has time to think about computer problems when the president is simultaneously colluding with hostile adversaries, capitalizing on elected office, destroying the freedom of the press, obstructing justice, etc.?
First, let’s summarize the jargony-bits into something more digestible: Last month a hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers announced they were taking some stolen documents and dumping them online like some common Wikileaks. Inside that data dump were fancy tools for computer spying, malware and a backdoor key that only works on computers running Windows XP. Once the backdoor is opened, the malware loads itself onto the computer where it can do one of three things, say “Hi,” kill itself, or execute a command. It’s important to note that this program was originally designed by a collective known as “The Equation Group,” a skunkworks nerdery thought to be a codename for the NSA, and that Windows XP is still one of the most widely used operating systems in the world.
WannaCry is the bastard child of that original code. Somebody stole the NSA’s super-duper spy software and stapled on ransomware, malware that holds your computer hostage until you transfer some money (usually in Bitcoin) to an account, otherwise your computer locks itself down and dies. If you’re confused, here’s an overly dramatic and sexxy teevee example of how ransomware works.
In total, WannaCry infected at least 150 countries and 200,000 computers, making it one of worst cyber attacks. It affected the U.K.’s National Health Service, forcing hospitals to reroute ambulances and disabling patient record systems, it hit a Spanish telecom operator, Russia’s interior ministry, German railway stations, Chinese schools and universities, ATMs in India and a few car manufacturers. For better or worse, the attackers gained about $90,000 in ransom payments, which seems small, though the goal was to get frustrated people to just pay up.
Geeks have been warning about these kinds of attacks for years. Hospitals are especially vulnerable because they run equipment that is increasingly reliant on computers for complex surgeries and general logistics. Since our healthcare system is a hot mess, hospitals have become prime targets — they can’t allow any of their equipment to get knocked offline as they kind of need it to, you know, save lives. This threat becomes compounded as the Internet of Things connects implanted medical devices like pacemakers to your computer, your front door, your toaster oven, and kinky sex toys.
It really is astonishing how insecure some places are. Coffee shops, bars, and Trump properties are actually some of the least secure places. An investigation from Pro-Publica found that several of Trump’s trash palaces are so horribly insecure that any mediocre hacker could easily break in with minimal effort in minutes, to say nothing of the the physical security.
“We parked a 17-foot motor boat in a lagoon about 800 feet from the back lawn of The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach and pointed a 2-foot wireless antenna that resembled a potato gun toward the club. Within a minute, we spotted three weakly encrypted Wi-Fi networks. We could have hacked them in less than five minutes…A few days later, we drove through the grounds of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with the same antenna and aimed it at the clubhouse. We identified two open Wi-Fi networks that anyone could join without a password.”
Sure, that all sounds kind of funny, but the ramifications for such severe lapses in basic network security at Trump resorts (monuments to greed though they may be) are serious. Trump hosts state dinners at Mar-a-Lago and encourages foreign dignitaries to stay at the Trump properties; it’s not a stretch to think of half a dozen scenarios where someone proficient in keyboard kung-fu could break in and steal classified material, upload a virus, or gain access to Trump’s unsecured twitter phone.
Without encryption, spies could eavesdrop on the network until a club employee logs in, and then steal his or her username and password. They then could download a database that appears to include sensitive information on the club’s members and their families, according to videos posted by the club’s software provider.
Trump won because Russian hackers stole information from the DNC, so it’s a little ironic that his garbage castles are so poorly guarded in “the cyber” and meatspace. You’d think that at least one of Trump’s Internet troll army would offer their services to Make Mar-a-Lago Great Again, but they must all be busy using conversion therapy on gay frogs or praying to President Bannon to notice that Trump’s left his back door wide open.