On Friday, news broke that an unprecedented ransomware attack was locking up and shutting down computers in over 150 countries, including those within the British National Health Service. This ransomware, known by the name “WannaCry”, locks down files on your computer and orders the user to pay a ransom in Bitcoin to retrieve them. The sheer size and scale of this attack is unlike any that we’ve seen before, and it is important, especially if you’re a small business owner, to take steps to make sure you’re not the next victim.
How WannaCry Works
This initial version of WannaCry exploits a security vulnerability in the Windows operating system, the most common OS in the business world. This program is also combined with a worm, making it extremely easy for it to spread across networks and affect other computers that are vulnerable. Even if you patch up your computer to fix the security flaw (which you should do ASAP!!), experts warn that you should be vigilant in continuously updating your OS as the hackers behind WannaCry have warned they will release new versions designed to exploit other weaknesses.
What to Do to Protect Yourself
If your computer runs Windows, it is at risk of being infected with the WannaCry ransomware and you need to take immediate steps to protect yourself from the threat. Authorities in the United States have issued some guidelines on what you should do.
- Run Windows update on your PC – download and install any and all software patches for your operating system.
- Update your anti-virus program, then scan your computer for any malware and viruses. While you’re at it, you should also schedule regular auto-scans for continued protection.
- Back up all important data on your computer, just in case you’re the next target.
- Make sure your outbound and inbound emails are being scanned for any malicious attachments (check out our best practices guide for email attachments here).
- Educate your colleagues, friends, and family – teach them how to identify scams and phishing emails.
- Only download software programs from trusted sources.
What to Do if You’re Affected by a Ransomware Attack
Don’t panic. Don’t pay the ransom for your files, security experts have warned, as there is no evidence that the hackers are releasing files after receiving the ransom. If your personal computer has been affected, you may want to reach out to your local IT experts. If your business has been affected, contact law enforcement immediately and provide as much information as possible. Finally, restore your systems with back-ups of your data (remember to reinstall all security patches and updates if you are restoring from an image backup – this will, in essence, restore your computer to the specific point in time when you created the backup, so the patches will not carry over).
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