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Creative Commons

DLA Piper's 3,600 attorneys work in 40 countries, making it one of the world's largest law firms. One of those countries is Ukraine, which on June 27 placed the firm on the front lines of one of the most penetrating commercial cyberattacks ever: Petya. When it hit, it took down DLA Piper's global computer systems, which appear still not to be fully back up. But DLA Piper was only one of hundreds of thousands of victims of the malware in more than 60 countries.

Can't artificial intelligence protect us? AI and machine learning are now crucial to protection (see below). But when it comes to malware like Petya, that will be too late — your data and your entire hard drive will already be encrypted. Petya victims lost much of their stuff to eternity.

BUT there is other protection: On the day of the attack, Microsoft published a blog post and a video describing new protective software, buttressed by machine learning capability. Called Windows Defender Application Guard, it should prevent Internet terrorists, at least for now, from taking down the world's infrastructure and economy, according to Simon Crosby, CTO of Bromium, an Internet security firm, who worked with Microsoft on the technology.

Who dunnit? A lot of security analysts see the fingerprints of a state actor in Petya, specifically Russia, although we still don't know with certainty.

If it is Russia, will it stop? Despite President Donald Trump's planned creation of a new "cyber security unit" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, probably not any time soon. Russia continues to intrude in critical U.S. systems.

How the protection works: The Windows program, and a similar Bromium software that Crosby claims is even more robust, quarantines users in a sort of protective bubble — an "isolation chamber," as he calls it — within their computing system. If there is a malware attack, the software safely wipes it away after the browser is closed.

But why isn't Microsoft distributing it now? I asked a Microsoft spokeswoman why the system will be released only later this year. She responded by saying WDAG is currently being tested with Microsoft clients.

A "wake-up call": Security firms are painting a stark picture in which Petya is only the beginning of a dark future of worsening cyber attacks on commercial and government actors. Whoever you are, it's essential that you keep your devices updated with the latest patches because if you're attacked now, there is a good chance you'll never recover your stuff and may lose your hardware, too.

Bottom line: "There's no time anymore for humans to respond with an alert. We have to respond at machine time scale," Crosby tells Axios.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.