May 12th, 2017 saw a devastating global cyberattack named WannaCry which has alerted millions of people to the dangers of ransomware.
Hospitals, businesses, homes and more were locked out of accessing critical files on their computers, facing ransom demands from anonymous hackers.
By Monday afternoon, the cyber-attack affected more than 200,000 machines in 150 countries and was eventually stopped by a British security researcher by claiming ownership of a domain name by accident.
While it is too late for those who got hit, there are some ways to protect yourself from ransomware, both now and going forward.
About Wanna Cry
The ransomware exploited a loophole in Windows systems that can be used against many versions of the operating system.
Microsoft patched the vulnerability in March but many individuals and organizations that do not regularly patch their systems
as well as Windows XP computers that are no longer supported by Microsoft remained unprotected and vulnerable to attacks.
Wanna Cry works by encrypting data on a computer that has been infected.
It then displays a window telling the user that their files have been locked and providing information on how much is to be paid and when.
The British researcher who stopped the cyber-attack saw that the ransomware system was routinely connecting to an unregistered domain name.
He claimed that domain name to better study the ransomware’s activity, but in claiming the domain name, he killed the entire attack without knowing so.
Unfortunately, there is nothing stopping the attackers from changing their code and relaunch the attack. Here are some tips to be safe when that happens.
Install updates regularly
It may be annoying to see messages from Windows or other companies that request you to install updates, but do not ignore it.
Companies often release software updates to improve functionality as well as fix vulnerabilities that can be exploited to install ransomware.
It is advisable to install the newest version of a software to be on the safe side.
Backup your data
Since ransomware works by locking or encrypting files on a computer and requesting payment to retrieve the files, you can avoid being a victim by always backing up your files.
You can do so by backing up your files in the cloud or buying an external hard drive.
Be careful about what your open
If you get an email from unknown people asking you to click a link or open an attachment, do not do it.
The most common ways for the virus software to be installed is through phishing emails.
Even if you receive a suspicious message from a friend asking you to open a file, double check with them by writing a new email or making a phone call.
Install an anti-virus software
Use an anti-virus software and keep it up to date.
Most antivirus software scan files to see if they may contain virus before allowing you to download them to your device.