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Parsing the tech and national security concerns behind the WannaCry ransomware attacks




In this photo illustration the logo of the multi-facetted internet giant Microsoft is displayed on a  computer screen on April 13, 2006 in London, England.
In this photo illustration the logo of the multi-facetted internet giant Microsoft is displayed on a computer screen on April 13, 2006 in London, England.
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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Over the weekend, the ransomware WannaCry infected computers in nearly 150 countries, taking files hostage for $300 in bitcoin and threatening to delete them after a week of no response.

The malware, which exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows XP, was reportedly stolen and leaked from the NSA back in April, leading Microsoft’s president to criticize the NSA for keeping tabs on software weaknesses.

The attack was largely halted over the weekend thanks to a 22-year-old UK-based computer researcher who found and triggered a kill switch in the code.

There’s been anxiety over what will happen today as people head back to work and turn on their computers – and though there were more infections reported, mostly in Asia, WannaCry seems to be slowing down.

How does WannaCry work and what can we do to protect ourselves? Does the NSA bear any responsibility for these attacks? And what are the tech and national security concerns, looking forward?

Guests:

Russell Brandom, reporter at the Verge who has been following the story

Bob Stasio, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, a national security think tank; he is also former Chief of Operations of NSA’s Cyber Center