WannaCry a signal moment, says NCA

The National Crime Agency believes the recent WannaCry attacks represent a “signal moment” in terms of awareness of cyber attacks and their real-world impact

The WannaCry ransomware attacks in May 2017 have put cyber crime into the conscious of most people, according to the cyber crime unit of the National Crime Agency (NCA). Many people for the first time understand the kinetic effect of cyber attacks,” said Mike Hulett, head of operations for the National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU), which leads UK law enforcement’s response to cyber crime.

“Even though the NHS was not specifically targeted, the effects of WannaCry [on hospitals, surgeries and pharmacies] showed how a cyber attack can have real-world consequences,” he told The Cyber Security Summit in London.

One of the behaviours the NCA hopes will change as a result of this “signal moment” is that organisations will be more willing to report cyber-related and cyber-enabled crime to law enforcement.

“Under-reporting is a huge issue,” said Hulett. “According to official statistics, cyber crime accounts for 47.5% of all crime in the UK, but in reality, it is probably well over half,” he said.

As crime increasingly moves online and becomes more prevalent, Hulett urged public and private sector organisations to report all incidents of cyber crime.

“Just as we can gather clues left by serial burglars and put them together to build a profile and even identify the criminals, we can do something similar when it comes to cyber crime.

“There are digital signatures and other clues we can gather, so if more crimes are reported, we will have more information to give us a better understanding of the criminals, which makes it more likely that we will be able to identify them and bring them to justice,” said Hulett.

WannaCry also demonstrated the importance of collaboration between industry and law enforcement, he said. “If we can corral things properly, we almost have a limitless army of people who want to help law enforcement, and we need to show that we can co-ordinate this properly and get value out of it.”