Important Steps to Prepare for the WannaCry Ransomware Attack

Frederick Owens
May 19, 2017

- The recent ransomware cyberattack targeted 300,000 computers in 150 countries. This included a decision to take additional steps to assist users with older systems that are no longer supported.

The latest ransomware spread across some university, business and government networks because of several factors, the New York Times reports.

Ransomware - a malicious piece of software that locks files on a computer and demands payments to unlock them - is the name of the type of virus that infected the machines.

WannaCry takes advantage of a vulnerability discovered by the NSA and made public by hackers in April.

Shortly after WannaCry began to spread, a security researcher accidentally found a kill switch that appeared to stop WannaCry in its tracks. What's remarkable about this release is that it's the first time in over three years that Microsoft has released a security update for Windows XP. Security experts believe that the NSA might have tipped off Microsoft about the flaw.

Europol's European Cybercrime Centre said that anyone hit by ransomware should use the unlocking tools provided at NoMoreRansom.org, a free resource developed by Europol in partnership with the Dutch police and other industry partners. Microsoft has also issued emergency patches for unsupported, outdated versions of Windows. "Although there has been a significant amount of interest in the media and inescapable coverage of the outbreak, many systems will still be lacking the MS17-010 patch required to mitigate the threat". Just go to Microsoft's website and install the update. However, a second wave of the attack that many feared would be carried out with mutated versions of the malware did not happen.

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Think twice before clicking on links or downloading attachments and apps. Phishing emails are the primary way WannaCry ended up on corporate networks. Microsoft also recommends running its free anti-virus software for Windows.

Back up copies of data.

"While it would be satisfying to hold accountable those responsible for this hack - something that we are working on quite seriously - the worm is in the wild, so to speak at this point, and patching is the most important message as a result", said Bossert.

Ironically, it is Kaspersky Labs that Interpol and Europol brought in for support, days after continuing speculation in the USA grew as to whether Kaspersky has Russian intelligence ties. Meanwhile, the required ransom jumps to $600 later today, according to security firm F-Secure.

So far, the ransomware has hit more than 200,000 computers worldwide. A Twitter bot tracking payments to Bitcoin wallets set up by Shadow Brokers reveals that dozens of people have paid the amount in Bitcoin.

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