Newsfeeds were flooded last Friday with announcements of a massive cyberattack that had hit many companies, including crippling the National Health Services in the UK for an entire day. By Saturday May 13th, more than 125,000 computers in over 100 different countries had been hit before a security programmer was able to put at least a temporary stop of the virus’ spread. Still, there were fears of a renewed wave of infections and shutdowns come Monday morning when people around the world went back to work.
Currently, a total of 150 nations and more than 300,000 computers have been hit by the virus. It’s called WannaCry – and for very good reason. The virus is a ransomware cryptoworm, which means it encrypts most or all the data on an infected computer and demands a ransom to gain access to the key to remove the encryption. With this virus, the cost to free your computer ($300 American) doubled after an amount of time and the threat lingered that if the victim didn’t pay within a certain amount of time, all their encrypted data would be deleted. Of course, as with any ransom, there was no guarantee that those behind the attack really would turn over the key to getting your data back even if you did pay. That’s enough to make anyone sweat!
WannaCry’s quick spread had to do with its ability to replicate and send itself out to other computers via the contacts found on an affected computer. The infection exploited vulnerabilities in older versions of Windows that hadn’t been patched. While Microsoft had released an update to fix the vulnerability, not everyone follows through with those updates, and some of the systems hit by this cyberattack were running versions of Windows, such as XP, that Microsoft stopped supporting years ago. Because of the scope of this attack and the critical systems and businesses being affected, Microsoft went above and beyond, releasing new patches for those versions no longer supported to help protect them. A group of researchers in France have discovered a way to unlock infected computers, but it only works under limited conditions.
This isn’t the first time a virus has spread like wildfire throughout the world (the first being all the way back in 1988), and it won’t be the last. It’s not even the only virus actively spreading. But practicing good cybersecurity habits every day on every electronic device – including phones and tablets – you can keep yourself and your company better protected.
Check out the links below for more information and tips to keep you safe:
Microsoft – WannaCry Ransomware
LA Times – Crippling cyberattack continues to spread around the world
Mashable – There’s another hacking attack right now….
Washington Post – Last week’s global cyberattack was just the beginning
TrueIT Blog — Tips to sink phishing attempts