You may have heard of the WannaCry ransomeware attack spreading across the globe like a digital pandemic, infecting the computers of banks, hospitals, telecommunications companies, and more. What is WannaCry, and what can you do to avoid becoming a victim?
WannaCry is a cyberattack engineered by using a vulnerability that was first discovered by the National Security Agency, and later released on the internet by hackers. One of the most prolific cyberattacks ever perpetrated, WannaCry has infiltrated over 200,000 computers in 150 countries, including China, Russia, the UK, and the US, bringing computer systems to a screeching halt.
When a computer system is infected with WannaCry, users are locked out and unable to access their data. Known as “ransomware,” this hacking attack encrypts the computer’s data, holding it hostage until the system’s owner pays a ransom. The screen will show a ransom demand before it will give back access to the computer. The ransom demand increases in price as the countdown proceeds, until either the ransom is paid, or WannaCry destroys the data on the computer.
WannaCry was first reported by the UK’s health service, one of the first major systems to be attacked. Also referred to as WannaCrypt, the attack’s spread across the globe is currently being tracked live on a map provided by MalwareTech.
Symantec, a security company, says that ransomware attacks have skyrocketed, increasing by more than a third in 2016 to over 483,800 attacks”and those are just the cyberattacks that are being tracked. They highly recommend getting their latest up to date version of Norton Anti Virus security suite to remain safe from these kinds of attacks Their best deals and offers can be found here.
If your computer is a PC running on Windows, update all of your software. Take all the precautions that you should when using your computer: never open suspicious emails or click on any links if you don’t know where it goes, and don’t open any unexpected file attachments.
Also, make sure all your files and data are backed up regularly and kept in an inaccessible place that the ransomware can’t get to, like a separate hard drive. Don’t connect the hard drive to your computer if you think it’s already been connected. Instead, get a new computer and upload all your saved files onto it.
Unfortunately, at this point there is no proven fix for WannaCry. Some cybersecurity researchers have claimed they can stop it, but this has yet to be verified. Initially, a security researcher accidentally stumbled onto a “kill switch” that could stop WannaCry, but the hackers have since patched this weakness, making WannaCry apparently unstoppable. According to Heimdal Security researchers, it’s also being called a new name: Uiwix. If the ransom isn’t paid within 72 hours, the price can double, and after a few days, the files are locked permanently.
Although the temptation to pay up the $300 ransom to retrieve your data may be overwhelming, the Justice Department, the FBI, and many tech firms recommend not paying. Why? Because you’re giving money to criminals, who may just end up demanding more money, or may target you again in the future because you’ve indicated you can be manipulated into paying.