Ransomware attacks leave customers powerless, companies ignore cyber threat
As the “NotPetya” ransomware attack spreads around the world, it’s making clear how important it is for everyone — and particularly corporations — to take cybersecurity seriously. The companies affected by this malware include power utilities, banks and technology firms. Their customers are now left without power and other crucial services, in part because the companiesdid not take action and make the investments necessary to better protect themselves from these cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity is becoming another facet of the growing movement demanding corporate social responsibility. This broad effort has already made progress toward getting workers paid a living wage, encouraging companies to operate zero-waste production plantsand practice cradle-to-cradle manufacturing — and even getting them to donate products to people in need.
The overall idea is that companies should make corporate decisions that reflect obligations not just to owners and shareholders, customers and employees, but to society at large and the natural environment. As a scholar of cybersecurity law and policy and chair of Indiana University’s new integrated program on cybersecurity risk management, I say it’s time to add cyberspace to that list.
Online security affects everyone
The recent WannaCry ransomware attack affected more than 200,000 computers in 150 nations. The results of the attack made clear that computers whose software is not kept up to date can hurt not only the computers’ owners, but ultimately all internet users. The companies hit by the NotPetya attack didn’t heed that warning, and got caught by an attackusing the same vulnerability as WannaCry, because they still haven’t updated their systems.
Some policymakers and managers are taking notice around the world. In the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security, the chief federal agency dealing with cybersecurity, has highlighted businesses’ “shared responsibility” to protect themselves against cyberattacks. Consumers can’t protect their utility services, banking systems or even their personal data on their own, and must depend on companies to handle that security.
Cybersecurity is an effort that not only protects — and even benefits — a company’s bottom line but also contributes to overall corporate and societal sustainability. In addition, by protecting privacy, free expression and the exchange of information, cybersecurity helps support people’s human rights, both online and offline.