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Formula 1 'must take cyber security seriously'

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A leading cyber security expert says that Formula 1 needs to take the threat of a cyber attack seriously.

The warning from John Zanni, president of technology company Acronis, comes in the wake of a number of high-profile ransomware attacks this year on targets around the globe.

"Formula 1 is a massively popular sport," said Zanni. "That is exactly what is usually a target, something that gets you a lot of press.

"It needs to be taken seriously," he added. "But Formula 1 has been lucky up to now. I hope it will stay lucky and will become even more secure in the future."

Acronis already works with Toro Rosso to ensure secure data back-up and safe file distribution. But Zanni said the team was something of an exception in the sport in terms of its awareness of the potential threat.

"Formula 1 is a very insular community," Zanni explained. "Because it is very insular, they are not concerned about outside hackers and people coming in and doing disruptive things.

"I've asked a few people in F1 about it and they have said: 'Why would anyone attack us? We just want to make sure our competitors don't see our data.'

"No one has thought of shutting down F1 for a weekend," he added. "But I suspect that somebody who is really, really smart could probably figure out how to do it."

Randsomware is where a malicious software virus gains unauthorised access to a computer system. It encrypts vital data, and victims have to pay a fee to the hackers to retrieve their information.

Some NHS Trusts in the UK were hit by the WannaCry virus earlier this year. And another virus called Petya hit hundreds of thousands of computers in Europe. Cyber criminals are believed to have made around $5 billion from such attacks.

Zanni said that hackers were franchising their software to criminal gangs, so that the threat from ransomware was proliferating.

"It is scary how these people have thought to go to market with their viruses," he said. "They are not just trying themselves to randomly get on as many computers as possible."

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