Ransomware is a malicious software that blocks access to a computer by encrypting its data and demands money, usually using untraceable Bitcoin, to release it. Microsoft tells us 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.
The latest, major attack is referenced as WannaCry or WanaCrypt0r and is impacting more than 150 countries for ransoms of $300 to $600 to regain access to the data. On Friday WannaCry hit more than 200,000 computers across the world, targeting mostly large companies' computer systems including hospitals banks, FedX, train stations, etc. As people log onto their computers this morning, they are finding a message telling them their computer information has been encrypted and a ransom via untraceable Bitcoin is required to get their information access back.
Although the experts are already citing this hack's global reach as unprecedented, more victims are expected as they log into their computers this morning/week.
Experts are advising, that victims should NOT pay the ransom as doing so doesn't guarantee you will regain access to your data and could also expose you to further attacks; and it also simply funds future crimes. Less than 100 have paid as of this morning.
Windows Operating System Defences:
- Users of Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8.1 can protect themselves against the main way of infection by running Windows Update on their computer. Reports show that computers that had fully updated their MS software products were protected from WanaCry; many of those that were infected had not installed the security updates.
- Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 8 users can defend against the ransomware by downloading the new patch from Windows.
- Users can further protect themselves by being wary of malicious email attachments, another major way ransomware is known to be spread.
More antivirus platforms, including Microsoft’s own Windows Defender, are now recognizing and blocking the malware, but don't rely just on technical fixes - you must always stay vigilant when working on your computer.
Summary- Defending Against Ransomware:
- Install and use an up-to-date antivirus solution (such as Microsoft Security Essentials).
- Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments or emails from people you don't know or companies you don't do business with.
- Ensure you have smart screen (in Internet Explorer) turned on.
- Have a pop-up blocker running in your web browser.
- Regularly backup your important files.
- Clicking on malicious or bad links in emails, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media posts, instant messenger chats, like Skype.
- Say "yes" to all Microsoft Office applications up dates, or set your computer to receive these automatic updates, protecting Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.
- Be careful where you surf on the internet as most cases, ransomware is automatically downloaded when you visit a malicious website or a website that's been hacked.
- Get the new patch from Windows (Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 8)- see link above.
- Refrain from clicking on strange or unrecognizable attachments on web pages or Emails unless you are sure it's safe.
- Backup your data/hard drive regularly.
What to Do If Your Computer Has Been Attacked:
How to recover your files depends on what version of Windows you are using and where you store your files.
- Microsoft suggests, that before you try to recover files, you should use Windows Defender Offline to fully clean your PC.
- For detailed information on efforts to recover your data, please visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/portal/mmpc/shared/ransomware.aspx and look under "Frequestly Asked Questions - How to I Get My Files Back".
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- Microsoft Website: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/security/portal/mmpc/shared/ransomware.aspx
- Microsoft Blog: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/msrc/2017/05/12/customer-guidance-for-wannacrypt-attacks/
- ABC and Fox News (TV Broadcasts)