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WannaCry, Ransomware and How to Protect Yourself
Created by Charles Vinal on 5/24/2017 2:13:41 PM

A global ransomware attack named WannaCry made headlines earlier this month by becoming one of the largest cyber attacks of all time. So far, the attack has affected roughly 200,000 organizations in over 150 countries.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is easy enough to understand. Basically, it’s a malicious software program that prevents victims from accessing data on their computers unless they pay a ransom to the cybercriminals who control the program.

The ransom is usually between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars. While this may not seem like a lot, ransomware attacks typically target thousands of victims so the ransom collected by criminals can add up quickly. Attackers typically demand victims pay with Bitcoin or some other cyber currency as these are nearly impossible to trace. Ransomware has been around since the late 1980’s, but instances of attacks have increased dramatically over the last 5 years.

What is WannaCry?

WannaCry is a ransomware attack that began on May 12th and has already affected roughly 200,000 organizations in over 150 countries. Some of the largest organizations impacted by the attack include Telefonica in Spain, the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, and FedEx in the United States.

Victims of the WannaCry attack frequently download the malicious software inadvertently by clicking on a link in a “Phishing” email or visiting an unsafe website. Once downloaded, the attack prevents users from accessing any files on their computer except for a file that contains instructions on how to pay the ransom.

WannaCry ransomware uses a flaw in older Microsoft operating systems that was initially discovered by the NSA and subsequently leaked to the public by hackers. The attackers typically demand a few hundred dollars in ransom paid in Bitcoin to unlock the victim’s computer. However, the ransom can increase if it isn’t paid quickly.

How to Protect Yourself

While ransomware attacks like WannaCry can seem intimidating, there are a number of simple steps you and your organization can take to protect yourselves.

  1. Always Backup Your Files: Keeping a complete backup of all essential files is a great way to avoid the negative ramifications of ransom attacks. In the event that your computer is attacked by ransomware, you can reset your computer and restore from the backup.
  2. Beware of Suspicious Emails: You are probably accustomed to receiving “Phishing” emails which attempt to get you to click on a malicious link or send a criminal personal information. This is one of the main ways cybercriminals distribute ransomware attacks. Never click on a link or download a file from a suspicious email!
  3. Install Antivirus Software: There are many antivirus software programs that can identify malicious links and downloads when you receive them. While no antivirus software can offer you complete protection, they can go a long way towards preventing ransomware and other malicious attacks.
  4. Keep Software Up-to-Date: Ransomware and other cyberattacks frequently exploit vulnerabilities that exist in outdated versions of software. WannaCry in particular targeted older versions of Microsoft Windows, but individuals with updated software were protected from the attack.

Want to learn more about WannaCry and ransomware? Check out the helpful links below:

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