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What You Need to Know: Ransomware, The WannaCry Attack, 2017

What happened?

“A ransomware attack that began in Europe on Friday is lingering — and hitting new targets Japan and China. The WannaCry software has locked thousands of computers in more than 150 countries. Users are confronted with a screen demanding a $300 payment to restore their files. The attack has hit more than 200,000 computers.

Because of its success infiltrating systems, the software — also known as WannaCrypt, Wana Decryptor or WCry — is already inspiring imitators.” (for more information, visit NPR)


What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a malicious program that locks a computer’s files until a ransom is paid. (from BBC)

“There are different types of ransomware. However, all of them will prevent you from using your PC normally, and they will all ask you to do something before you can use your PC.

They can target any PC users, whether it’s a home computer, endpoints in an enterprise network, or servers used by a government agency or healthcare provider.

Ransomware can:

  • Prevent you from accessing Windows.
  • Encrypt files so you can’t use them.
  • Stop certain apps from running (like your web browser).

Ransomware will demand that you pay money (a “ransom”) to get access to your PC or files. We have also seen them make you complete surveys.

There is no guarantee that paying the fine or doing what the ransomware tells you will give access to your PC or files again.” (from Microsoft Malware Protection Center).


According to NPR, you can protect yourself, your computer, and your personal information by taking the following steps:

The Fix

Windows users should update their software to avoid the ransomware, security experts say.

In addition to Microsoft’s Security Bulletin MS17-010 that patched the vulnerability in March, the company also issued a separate patch on Friday for users of older and unsupported operating systems such as Windows XP.

Other advice includes these six tips from the No More Ransom site, edited here for length:

  1. Back up your computer and store the safety version in the cloud or on a drive that’s not connected to your computer.
  2. Use robust antivirus software.
  3. Keep all the software on your computer up to date. Enable automatic updates.
  4. Never open attachments in emails from someone you don’t know. And remember that any account can be compromised.
  5. Never download attachments or programs from someone, or some website, you don’t know.
  6. Enable the ‘Show file extensions’ option in the Windows settings on your computer. This will make it much easier to spot potentially malicious files. Stay away from file extensions like ‘.exe’, ‘.vbs’ and ‘.scr’.
  7. If you find a problem, disconnect your machine immediately from the internet or other network connections (such as home Wi-Fi).

If this has happened to you, DO NOT PAY THE RANSOM.  Why?  More information >


Interested in reading more?  Check out these reputable news-sources

MIT Technology Review

BBC

NPR

Microsoft Malware Protection Center

Sam Simas

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