17 May Malicious Software Attacks, ‘WannaCry’ and Ransomware – What Are They and How Can We Prevent Them?
Over the past five days, the news has been buzzing with stories of a piece of software that has managed to cause catastrophic issues for major corporations in over 70 countries. The most noticeable of these attacks is one on the NHS and the 40 NHS Trusts that have been affected by this.
It’s important that to remain secure, we must be able to know and understand what happened and how we can prevent situations like this from happening in the future. We thought we’d take a bit of time to go through that with you in some detail, to give you a better understanding of how it worked and what you should do if you have an issue like this in future.
How did this attack happen?
A piece of ransomware software nicknamed ‘WannaCry’ was created and distributed via spam emails, infected websites and from infected PC’s across networks.
This attack was only effective because people had failed to update their Operating System, following a Windows Update released in March this year.
This update fixed a hole exposed in the Windows Operating System, that was leaked from the NSA by WikiLeaks. This meant that anyone who had the knowledge could have exploited this attack months ago.
If people’s systems were up to date, then they will have remained unaffected.
Organisations like the NHS often have large IT Teams that co-ordinate when is best to launch these updates. Some of their systems had not received this upgrade and this helped aid the attackers in causing the damage we were all alerted to late Friday afternoon.
What is Ransomware?
Ransomware is a particular type of malicious software that securely encrypts a user’s computer files preventing them from having access without paying a ransom fee.
Upon completion of this demand, the software will then unencrypt the files, allowing the person to access them again.
Ransomware is a particularly nasty piece of software because it often requires a key to unencrypt each file. This means that if a hacker decides to encrypt your files, they can often be unrecoverable if you do not meet the attackers demands.
As a consumer, it is always important that you enable updates on the Operating System that you use and that you regularly keep all of your software up to date. Failure to do this can cause more damage than you realise and infect other PC’s across the same network as well as yours. This can potentially have devastating effects by deleting important, sensitive and unrecoverable files.
What steps can I take to ensure that my files are safe and secure?
We recommend three steps:
1. Keep all your software packages up to date
If a software is asking to update, don’t just keep putting it off. Schedule a reasonable time for you to be able to spend updating your software and keeping yourself secure. This will help prevent hackers using exposed security holes to try and find their way into your system.
2. Take Regular Backups
If files are important to you, make sure that you back them up regularly and keep them on a separate device, such as a USB stick or an external hard drive. These devices should be removed from the device and kept separate during normal operation, to ensure that the backup will remain safe should anything happen to your laptop.
3. Ensure that you take internet security seriously
Don’t click on any links in emails that don’t look to be legitimate, keep your eye out for downloads that don’t look safe and ensure that your antivirus is up to date at all times. This should help prevent any infections from accessing your network in the first place.
We offer Support Packages for our commercial clients that ensure security and stability across a range of hardware and software.
For more information, please call our team on 01472 269 243, or email us at email@example.com.