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Ted Warren / AP

The WannaCry ransomware attack locked down computers and phone systems around the world. While that wreaked havoc, it's nothing compared to what we'll see when just about every major piece of our infrastructure is connected to the internet — from self-driving cars that rely on sensors that talk to each other to smart stop lights, railroads and bridges that wirelessly monitor traffic, speeds and structural problems.

"Wait until this happens to your car, or your refrigerator, or airplane avionics, or when your internet-enabled lock has locked you out," Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer at IBM Resilient, told the Christian Science Monitor.

Why it matters: Modernized power grids and connected cities are coming soon thanks to fast-evolving technology that is detailed in a report out this morning from Software.org. While those Internet-of-Things capabilities are efficient and convenient, they also create incredible infinite network entry points for hackers.

We asked Chris Hopfensperger, the group's executive director, how to prepare for those vulnerabilities.

"This is a teachable moment for the lesson that computer and device security are vitally important on a global scale, and it should underscore a range of well-known security best practices," he said.

Those best practices, according to Hopfensperger:

  • For companies, that means ensuring security by design and using risk-appropriate protections.
  • For policymakers, it means ensuring that companies have the flexibility to develop new security technologies that address emerging threats without the constraints of technology mandates.
  • For users, everyone should start with using licensed and legal software, updating devices regularly, and being informed and engaged about security threats.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
20 mins ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.