By Bill Hudson

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — It appears that the vicious cyber-attack launched Friday is showing signs of slowing its spread, but not until the ransomware, identified at “WannaCry,” affected an estimated 300,000 computers in 150 countries.

The hackers have requested payments of $300 per seized computer to have the encrypted data released.

Millions of times each day other mischievous hackers probe for vulnerabilities in the State of Minnesota’s massive computer network.

As ransomware like WannaCry targets governments and companies across the globe, the threat of a cyber attack keeps Commissioner Tom Baden up at night.

“IT is the engine that runs state government,” he said.

Minnesota IT Services has the enormous task of keeping all the computers in state government up and running.

That’s vitally important to all residents, because it would take just one successful attack to disrupt every corner of government – from tax records and tracking measles to buying your fishing license.

“We’re at the point now where we’ve got processes in place for keeping systems updated and eyes on the systems and make sure we monitor and scan all the time,” Baden said.

The full scope of this latest attack is hitting Europe, India and China hardest, yet it’s impact is still being measured.

“Certainly, the impact has been widespread enough that it’s indicative that it could be one of the bigger instances, particularly for ransomware,” said Aaron Call, the director of information security for Minnesota IT.

As of Monday, affected companies and agencies had only paid out some $55,000 in ransom to the hackers. Payments were to be made with deposits into a Bitcoin account.

More importantly, those guarding Minnesota’s data say such attacks are becoming more frequent and sophisticated.

“Vulnerabilities are the food that hackers eat,” said Minnesota IT chief information security officer Chris Buse. “We need to figure out how to get out of our system in the first place and how to defend against these kinds of attacks that we’re seeing every single day.”


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