WannaCry hasn't prompted faster Windows 10 deployment among most businesses, new data shows: just 13% of firms have accelerated their upgrade processes after the massive ransomware outbreak hit machines worldwide in May.
This finding comes from 1E, which polled 400 US-based IT professionals to learn about their experiences and responses to WannaCry. At the time of their survey, only 11% of respondents had completed their Windows 10 migrations. More than half (53%) had their migration underway, 18% were planning to begin migration this year, and 10% plan to migrate next year. Eight percent have no migration plan.
However, only 13% of respondents are accelerating Windows 10 deployment as a direct result of the attack. Stuart Okin, senior vice president of product at 1E, says this isn't a surprise given the burden of upgrading systems, especially at bigger organizations.
A Windows 10 upgrade can affect "hundreds of thousands of pieces of software," he explains. Some may be compatible with Windows 10, some may not be compatible. IT teams are concerned with disrupting operations and knocking out drivers by upgrading their systems.
Most businesses were not ready to defend against WannaCry, with 86% taking preventative measures after they heard about the attack. This is "a huge amount of activity" for a virus exploiting a vulnerability patched months prior, claims 1E, which found ten percent of respondents were infected in the outbreak.
Significantly, 86% was the same percentage of businesses reporting they do not immediately release patches to endpoints when they become available. After learning about WannaCry, most respondents' first preventative step was learning whether they were vulnerable.
"At the very least, they were finding out whether their systems and software were utilizing the vulnerable protocol and getting a handle on that," explains Okin. "86% weren't sure where they stood and had to take actions on a protocol that was first conceived in 1990 but hadn't really been used from 2006 onwards."
The protocol he refers to is Server Message Block (SMB) version 1, an old protocol used to send files between Windows machines. Once one computer was infected with WannaCry, it invoked a flaw in SMB to infect other vulnerable machines on the network. Even if companies had disabled SMB, they still may not have applied the patched Microsoft issued ahead of WannaCry.
Digging into the numbers, it's clear most companies wait to release patches. Only 14% deploy patches immediately, 36% deploy within one week of the patch's release, and 23% wait at least four weeks after the patch is released.
WannaCry has sparked increased security awareness among businesses, with 71% reporting greater intent to stay current with updates. Nearly three-quarters think the experience of reacting to WannaCry has prepared them to address future threats.
Okin says it's important to adopt new versions of Windows as Microsoft rolls out security updates to mitigate vulnerabilities. Automation can accelerate the process of updating operating systems and testing applications. IT often chooses slower manual testing processes, but Okin says it's time change this mindset with the new Windows upgrade structure.
With vulnerabilities publicly available, he anticipates the malware trend will continue to grow until organizations change their mindsets and commit to constant operating system updates.
"Everybody in this industry knows where the vulnerabilities are - they're published, at least a good chunk of them," says Okin. "How to exploit those vulnerabilities is also published, and that's without actually going into the underground."
However, he continues, security teams need to understand they may still be attacked even if their patches are up to date. Take the NotPetya attack, which targeted global machines a few weeks after WannaCry hit. The second outbreak took entire businesses offline and was able to move across all machines, not only those using older protocols.