The worst ransomware attack the world has ever seen has just been thwarted, or so it might seem, with a $10 web domain. WannaCry drove thousands to tears around the globe, and held out a stark warning about the vulnerabilities of our digital, inter-connected, existence.
What exactly happened?
WannaCry, a crypto-ransomware that is also called WannaCrypt, affected at least 45,000 computers spread over 74 countries on Friday. The WanaCrypt or 2.0 bug encrypts data on a computer within seconds and displays a message asking the user to pay a ransom of $ 300 in Bitcoins to restore access to the device and the data inside. Alarmingly, the attack also hit the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, stalling surgeries and other critical patient care activity across the British Isles, and making confidential patient information and documents inaccessible.
But what is ransomware? How is it different from other malicious software?
There are many types of malware that affect a computer, ranging from those that steal your information to those that just delete everything on the device. Ransomware, as the name suggests, prevents users from accessing their devices and data until a certain ransom is paid to its creator. Ransomware usually locks computers, encrypts the data on it and prevents software and apps from running.
How To Protect Yourself From The Global WanaCry Ransomware Attack
WanaCry or WCry, has locked up over 75,000 computers in 99 countries in the last 24 hours according to cybersecurity company Avast. The National Health Service in the UK, Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica, and FedEx in the US are among the tens of thousands of victims. Here’s how you can protect yourself.
Wanacry was first identified in February and Microsoft released a patch in March. If you have not updated your Windows software recently, do it now. The current versions of Windows 10 and the build schedules for each version can be found here. You can find the Windows version and build that is running on your system by going to Settings>System>About.
If you need to update to protect against WanaCry, Microsoft has gathered patches for all currently supported versions of Windows which can be found here. They have also taken the highly unusual step of patching legacy versions of Windows that have been unsupported for as long as three years. If you are running one of these versions of Windows you might want to give serious consideration to upgrading to the current version. In the meantime, you can thank Microsoft for reaching out to help you and download the patch.
If you have up-to-date malware protection software from a reputable cybersecurity company such as Avast installed on your computer, you are probably protected. Check your cybersecurity company’s website to make sure you are. WanaCry is a world-wide, runaway threat. If your cybersecurity company’s website has nothing to say about it, don’t assume you are protected. Make sure you are running the current version of Windows.
Updated with links to pages with patches for the both the supported and unsupported versions of Windows.