A ransomware attack has taken down thousands of computers in more than 100 countries in the last 24 hours, with millions still vulnerable.

Possibly The Biggest Ransomware Attack The World Has Ever Seen

On 13 May 2017, news agencies reported the outage of systems at NHS hospitals in the UK. 75, 000 Individual reports of a widespread ransomware, named WannaCrypt0r/WannaCry follows. If your PC is running Microsoft Windows, you should read this.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of computer malware or “virus” that encrypts the contents of your computer. The ransomware distributor or creator then usually sets a “ransom” and deadline for the computer’s decryption. Once the time has run out, your computer is either wiped clean or the ransomware fee increases.

Why Is Ransomware Becoming So Popular?

Hackers often distribute ransomware for two reasons: Money and attention. Not only do they make a large amount of money off gullible users, they also cause widespread panic. In this case, the hacker may or may not have wanted hospitals and public infrastructure to suffer especially. It is still likely, however, that these outages cost lives and would get the hacker a lot of attention. Only the hacker may be aware of his/her actual intentions in an attack.

How Do I Prevent Getting Infected?

Microsoft has known about this particular threat since March, so the good news is that you may not be at risk. Windows users who use computers that are still receiving security updates (Windows 7 or newer) should update their computers immediately. Users of other versions of Windows should shut down or isolate their computers from any network, including the internet.

As an extra precaution, users should make a backup of their data on external media. This ensures that your data is easily restored after an infection.

How Do Malware Attacks Spread?

Malware can spread through removable devices or computer networks, such as the internet. This is why you should NEVER download unknown files or use unknown memory sticks. You should also have a strong antivirus installed on your PC. Some antivirus software packages, like Bitdefender, include special tools to help protect against Ransomware in particular.

Malware is also most likely to attack computers that are out-of-date. Commonly this also includes PCs that run Windows XP or Vista, since these computers no longer receive security updates. Users who make use of these PCs should consider upgrading their operating system or replacing their PCs.

What Should I Do If I Fall Victim to Ransomware?

DO NOT pay the ransom. For many reasons, paying the ransom may not stop such an attack. Even if it does, it does not remove the ransomware from your PC and you will get attacked (and pay) again. DO ask for help. Contact your IT department or company if your computer shows any sign of infection. This is absolutely critical since ransomware could spread quickly to other computers in your home or organisation.

How Do I Protect Myself From Other Attacks?

As mentioned above, there are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself from malware:

  • Always keep your Windows PC updated
  • Never download files or programs from untrusted sources
  • Never make use of unknown or untrusted flash drives
  • Always ensure that you have a strong antivirus installed and that it is always up to date.
  • Contact your IT company or Department immediately if your computer shows any strange behaviour

Malware is easier to treat upon early detection, while its effects are often more difficult and costly to treat. If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below. For emergency assistance, please feel free to contact us. To help fight this attack and prevent it from affecting your friends and family, please share this article using the buttons below.