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IBM charts a 200% rise in destructive malware attacks on business networks in the first half of 2019 over the last half of 2018 in a new report.

Why it matters: Destructive malware damages systems or data. It adds a tremendous burden to companies recovering from attacks; the same IBM report calculates a $239 million average cost to a business to recover from a destructive attack.

Details: There are several reasons that hackers use destructive malware in an attack, Chris Scott, global remediation lead for IBM's X-Force IRIS security division, told Axios.

  • Nations are trying to harm an adversary or project strength — as when North Korea attacked Sony or Iran attacked the Sands casino.
  • Criminals have begun to incorporate network-wiping malware as added motivation in ransomware attacks.
  • Both can use wipers to hide their tracks, making it more difficult to study who was behind an attack or what exactly they did.

More than half the victims operate in the manufacturing sector.

Backing up data can allow an organization to recover after a breach. But recovery isn't as easy as you might think.

  • "A lot of people miss the scale this can get to," said Scott. "The average attack we saw impacted around 12,000 workstations. If it takes 15 minutes to restore each workstation, that's still a long recovery."

There are a few ways to minimize the damage, said Scott:

  • Rehearse and plan for a destructive attack. That means, among other things, make sure a destructive attack on a network would not damage the backups of that network.
  • Empower employees to act quickly. In an extreme example, Scott recalls an employee at a Saudi firm seeing an attack in progress, running to the server room, and pulling the plug on the company's network, saving the company from losing its production data and backups.
    • Scott concedes that may have been too much empowerment; most employees shouldn't be allowed to do that.
    • But it's worth deciding in advance, said Scott, what lengths employees can go to to stop an attack without having to wait for a go-ahead from the higher-ups.

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 7 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker