The news cycle has been buzzing with the latest ransomware attack called WannaCry. This cyber-bug has infected over 300,000 computers in 150 countries. WannaCry is a ransomware style attack, where once the virus is introduced to your computer, it encrypts all the files on your hard drive, rendering them unusable without a decryption key. This virus is spreading throughout the internet via email links and attachments. Once opened, it is nearly impossible to be stopped. The individual on the other end will then demand a ransom, usually in the form of bitcoin, for the decryption key. (Typically, the first ransom demand is in the $300-$500 range.) How can you protect yourself?
- Make sure your computer software is up to date. The newest operating system is best, but at a minimum, make sure that your systems are up to date with latest patches. In this current attack, WannaCry is affecting Windows computers with older versions of the operating system, such as Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 & 8.
- This warning is just not for Windows users. It is a myth that Macs do not get viruses. While this current version ransomware is targeting computers running older versions of Windows operating systems, variants of the virus have been spotted on the internet focusing on Apple and Windows 10 devices.
- Be diligent. Don’t open suspicious attachments or click on links in emails even if they are from an email address you know.
- Have a system backup. It is important to back-up your system via a cloud-based software or an external hard drive. Be sure to do this on a daily or weekly basis.
- Create complex passwords. If your back-up requires a password, created a complicated one that includes upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Do not use something such as your birthdate in your password.
- Avoid using public WiFi. Public WiFi, while convenient, creates an open pathway for attackers to gain access to your phone, computer or tablet.
What to do if your computer has been encrypted?
- Do not pay the ransomware demands. There is no guarantee that the hackers will send the decryption codes and in most cases, they will ask for money multiple times.
- Use your system back-up to restore your computer. Be sure that your operating system is up-to-date prior to putting your computer back online.
- If you do not have your system backed up, visit nomoreransom.org, which is a site backed by security firms and cyber security organizations in 22 countries. This group acts as a “cyber sheriff” and maybe able to provide you with options to unlock your files for free.
While the spread of WannaCry was slowed by a 22-year-old security researcher in the United Kingdom, it is still proliferating. Security experts advise that attacks like this one will continue to surface on the internet over the course of the summer. As of now, cyber security experts are still investigating the source and cleanup of WannaCry and do not have a confirmed fix for the virus.