TSMC Stops Its Production Lines Due to WannaCry Infection

WannaCry is back. The infamous malware that already caused damage worth of up to $100 million strikes again, this time infecting TSMC’s network. As a result, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, a chip supplier for Apple, NVidia, and AMD, promised to oust any chance of human error in the future.

WannaCry ransomware attack

From NSA to Shadow Brokers

If WannaCry sounds familiar, that’s because it already caused damages after attacking computers throughout the world back in April 2017. Malicious software in question put critical operations to a halt in telecommunications and train stations, hospitals and shipping companies, only to cause losses that amounted up to $100 million. The group behind the attack is known as Shadow Brokers.

Another interesting fact is that the US National Security Agency might be partly responsible for the development of WannaCry. The framework for this ransomware application was stolen from an NSA contractor and later repurposed for an already infamous EternalBlue attack.

The temporary halt of important systems infected by WannaCry was put to an end when MalwareTech, namely its security researcher Marcus Hutchins, activated the so-called kill switch. Until then, the computers targeted by the Shadow Brokers group kept installing a payload from an unregistered domain, thus encrypting hard drives and sending the EternalBlue ransom order in exchange for the decryption key.

What Happened at TSMC?

A few weeks back, on August 3rd, 2018, the WannaCry ransomware variant spread to the TSMC’s network, urging Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to stop its production lines immediately. The attack was swift and carefully executed. The stoppage of all production lines proves the massive significance of this new attack as TSMC is the primary provider of chips for tech tycoons such as Apple, NVidia, and AMD.

Early estimations done by TSMC predict that this WannaCry attack will cost the manufacturer around $256 million in this year’s third quarter alone, which results in a total of 3% revenue loss. It’s also essential to note that the recent WannaCry attack has had a massive impact on Apple’s scheduled launch of the next iPhone as well.

As a result, both TSMC’s shipping time frame and Apple’s launching schedule will most certainly be affected. The chip manufacturer promised that all shipments delayed in the aftermath of the cyber-attack would be atoned during the final quarter of the year, which should limit the negative impact on TSMC’s customers.

photo credit: Engadget

Attack or Unfortunate Happenstance?

What’s even more surprising and bizarre is the fact that the TSMC’s statement claims that the company did not experience a cyber attack; the company claims that the WannaCry ransomware spread across the company’s network due to the unfortunate happenstance, or as the statement discloses a human error. It seems that the system was exposed to the malicious piece of software “when a supplier installed tainted software without a virus scan.”

“We are surprised and shocked,” the company’s CEO CC Wei said in a statement. “We have installed tens of thousands of tools before, and this is the first time this happened.” The chip maker is ready to make the necessary amendments, and the statement promises that all virus scans in TSMC’s factories will be promptly automated at all times. “We are inventing a new mechanism that will go online soon,” Wei confirmed.

TSMC also stated that all of their customers had been duly notified, even though the company was able to find a solution and contain the malicious program almost immediately. No data had been compromised, nor will be, as actions had been taken “to close this security gap and further straighten security measures.”

What Can We Learn from TSMC?

If even one of the biggest chip makers, supplying some of the leading tech brands all around the globe, can fall victim to a sophisticated cyberattack, or worse, allow themselves to get compromised by their own negligence, then how can we, casual internet users, maintain the security of our computers and other devices.

VPN seems like an obvious solution, though many companies remain unaware not only of its benefits but also of the fact that this kind of security can make a massive difference between when it comes to virtual security. With an ability to protect your network and maintain secure communication you can significantly limit the chances of exposing your system to devious software and other cyber threats. And, for everything that a VPN cannot stop, there are antimalware tools that are designed to identify and terminate any virtual security threats automatically.

TSMC will undoubtedly recover from the WannaCry incident, and so will Apple, NVidia, and AMD. Any company smaller than that would have been in more trouble than you can imagine. Until security experts find a more reliable way to shield us from cybercriminals, it’s up to us to take precautionary measures.