The outbreak of the ransomware, known as WannaCry, has quickly become one of the worst cyberattacks in recent memory. On Friday, May 12, 2017, it began infecting thousands upon thousands of computers around the globe, destroying countless files in the process. Here’s everything we know about the WannaCry ransomware attack so far.
What does WannaCry Ransomware do to your Computer?
Like other forms of ransomware, WannaCry displays messages that demand a Bitcoin ransom (between $300 and $600 in this case) in exchange for the safe return of your files. If payment isn’t made, the hackers increase the ransom and ultimately destroy all files present on the infected computer.
How Widespread is its Impact?
So far, WannaCry ransomware is estimated to have infected over 300,000 systems in over 150 countries. According to a Twitter bot developed by cybersecurity expert Keith Collins, WannaCry’s creators have raked in about $80,000.
The ransomware mainly targeted computers in large organizations such as hospitals, banks, government agencies and transport systems, but has spread to many other small businesses as well. By pursuing such organizations that rely heavily on computer systems to function, the hackers have successfully leveraged their attack as a means to make money.
Early into the WannaCry epidemic, a malware analyst by the name of MalwareTech found a loophole within WannaCry’s code and activated a kill-switch that temporarily delayed the virus’ spread. However, the hackers soon discovered MalwareTech’s kill-switch and changed WannaCry’s code, allowing it to continue infiltrating new systems.
How do I Prevent WannaCry?
Update your Software
The main operating systems targeted by WannaCry ransomware are those that have reached the end of their life, meaning they’re no longer supported by their manufacturers. If you’re using software that’s no longer supported, particularly Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, you must upgrade as soon as possible.
As far as operating systems that are still supported, make sure they’re up-to-date. If you haven’t ran any Windows updates since March, you’re extra-vulnerable to the virus. It’s annoying to sit around and wait for your computer to update, but it’s even more annoying to be locked out of your most important files forever.
Create Backups of your Files
In case of emergency, have backups of your files created, either on an external hard drive or a cloud service. This way, they won’t be gone forever if you fall victim to WannaCry.
Be Careful of Unsolicited Emails
Educating yourself on the dangers of spoof emails and other phishing scams is one of the best protection tips against all strains of malware, not just WannaCry ransomware.
It’s simple: if you receive an email attachment from someone you don’t know, don’t click it.
What if my Computer gets Infected?
If your computer gets infected by WannaCry, do not pay the ransom. While some forms of ransomware will actually return your files, many sources report that WannaCry will not.
Instead, here’s what to do:
- Contact your IT support team
- Contact law enforcement
- Restore backups of data
At the time that this blog is being written, there’s no confirmed fix for WannaCry. Your ability to recover from an attack depends on whether or not you backed up your files beforehand.
Experts predict that the next global ransomware attack will be even more severe. By ensuring that you and everyone in your business is proactive and cyber-smart (as detailed above), you’ll mitigate your chances of falling victim to WannaCry.