Mobile security lessons from the WannaCry breach

By Taylor Holland

| Banking

The global WannaCry security breach was a wake-up call for consumers and businesses alike. By exploiting a known vulnerability in operating systems, NPR reports, cybercriminals seized control of an estimated 300,000 PCs, temporarily shutting down businesses and public utilities, sending hospitals into dangerous tailspins and compromising both corporate data and consumer privacy.

This was not the first large-scale ransomware attack (or even the worst), but it did shed light on the fact that many businesses are unprepared to handle serious enterprise and mobile security threats. Users could have avoided being hacked by following the most basic cybersecurity principle: Always use the most up-to-date versions of operating systems, software and mobile apps.

How ransomware made people “wanna cry”

Wired reports WannaCry ransomware spread around the world, locking down computers and displaying a message that demanded $300 in bitcoins to release the data. The malware affected large companies and several hospitals, compromising not just patient privacy, but also their safety.

No one was seriously hurt by the hospital delays, affected businesses have recovered and the WannaCry virus has been contained. However, some organizations could still face negligence lawsuits over the debacle because they had received a warning and a solution months earlier.

Find the best managed mobility services to keep your org safe

WannaCry exploited a Windows vulnerability known as EternalBlue. Microsoft knew about the risk and released a patch in March. The following month, a group of cybercriminals called Shadow Brokers leaked files reportedly stolen from the US National Security Agency that explained how to use EternalBlue as a weapon. A month later, other cybercriminals put the information to use.

Given the advanced warning, how did enterprises fail to protect their data? Many organizations didn’t take time to install the patch. Others, including the hospitals, were still running an older operating system despite repeated warnings it was no longer safe. Just as importantly, some organizations simply didn’t get the memo. With new threats emerging all the time, it’s hard to stay on top of them all without the right mobile security tools in place to automate data loss prevention.

Protecting enterprise data through mobile security

The average cost of a data breach in 2017 is $3.62 million, according to a Ponemon Institute study. For highly regulated industries such as banking and healthcare, that number could be much higher, depending on the nature of the stolen data. The following are some simple ways enterprises can avoid these costs:

  • Retire outdated software and mobile devices
  • Immediately install patches and updates when they’re released
  • Stay abreast of news about cybersecurity threats

However, the simple answer isn’t always easy or efficient. For example, the WannaCry patch would have taken organizations “just a day or two to test and install,” according to the LA Times. However, that’s a lot of time for already overtaxed IT departments, and WannaCry wasn’t the only threat out there.

Keeping mobile devices up-to-date can be even more challenging. Most companies have BYOD policies that allow employees to use their personal devices to access corporate tools and data. Even if IT can make the time to update every employee’s smartphone or tablet on a regular basis, it’s likely to get resistance from users who would rather not hand over personally owned devices.


A strong mobile device management (MDM) platform can help with mobile security by enabling IT to remotely update everyone’s smartphone at once and to wipe data from lost or stolen devices. The problem is that MDM alone doesn’t help with computers, servers and other non-mobile connected devices. However, unified endpoint management (UEM) does.

With a cognitive UEM solution, enterprises can manage and protect all operating systems (including outdated ones) and devices (mobile or otherwise) from a single platform. Users also get AI-driven insights about all known cybersecurity threats and mobile alerts when intruders or viruses are detected, enabling them to act quickly and prevent data loss.

After all, mobile security shouldn’t make enterprises want to cry. With the right technology in place, IT can keep the company safe while freeing up time for digital innovation.

Written By

Taylor Holland

Founder, Taylored Editorial, LLC

With 11 years experience writing about business and technology trends for both media outlets and companies, Taylor Mallory Holland understands how mobile technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration, and reimagine…

Other Articles by Taylor Holland
See All Posts