The actual attacks are only collateral damage in the larger conflict.
What is going on is a fairly sophisticated attack, not so much against computers as organizations and countries. The Ransomware attack that's making the news was made possible by hacking tools looted from what is likely the NSA.
That may or may not be the case.
The ransomware attacks are deliberate collateral damage created when a supposed group of hackers calling themselves the Shadow Brokers released them online. The intent was for them to cause as much damage as possible and for the United States to take the blame.
It was the latest move in a game of cyberwarfare that encompasses Russian and American cyberwarfare assets. Russia's Kaspersky Labs had detected Stuxnet, which was aimed at the nuclear program of Russia's Iranian allies.The supposed hacking tools are attributed to the same origin source as Stuxnet. But those doing the attributing tend to be Russian assets.
That's also true here.
The Shadow Brokers, like Guccifer 2.0, are allegedly a government organization posing as hackers. Think of Kaspersky as wearing the white hats and the Shadow Brokers wearing the black hats. But the hats are just an outfit.
The goal was to disperse the tools online as widely as possible, damaging US intelligence both by exposing cyberwarfare tools and distributing them in ways likely to be damaging so that the targets will blame the United States. As Microsoft is already doing.
On one level, there are two sets of hackers representing rival governments counting coup. The Russians let their boys have more fun in public. While the NSA depends on secrecy. But the Russians have become quite adept at disguising their attacks under the false flag of civil liberties. This is something the KGB picked up back when it was using leftist fellow travelers in the West. The politics have become more complicated and Americans still keep falling for it.
On another level, Russia is trying to damage American cyberwarfare capabilities using both direct cyberwarfare and indirect political attacks. It's tethered the two together quite effectively. And the real lesson of the past years is that while we have developed some offensive capabilities, our defensive capabilities are badly lacking.