The globe is roiling with reports of WannaCry malware locking down PCs and demanding money for access return. Cases of this fast-moving attack have now been documented in over 100 countries. Here’s what we know so far:
- Over 20 different hospitals in the U.K. were hit by the ransomware late last week, shutting down access to electronic medical records. Many institutions had to delay or cancel patient treatments. It has also hit U.S. companies including FedEx.
- The US Government issued a statement late Friday night to alert and motivate all PC owners. It stated, “The latest version of this ransomware variant, known as WannaCry, WCry, or Wanna Decryptor, was discovered the morning of May 12, 2017 by an independent security researcher and has spread rapidly over several hours.”
- While it’s true that one version of WannaCry has been shut down by a tech researcher who registered a domain name buried inside the malware, it’s likely that the infection rate will pick up again soon.
- There’s no guarantee that paying the ransom (around $300 in Bitcoin, a virtual currency) will get the user a decryption key that works.
The targeted computers are running out-of-date operating systems. There are steps you can take to avoid this deadly ransomware, but WannaCry is spreading at an alarming rate not seen before, so don’t delay.
- Because this risk is so severe, Microsoft has taken the unusual step of releasing patches for Windows 8 and Windows XP, versions of Windows they stopped supporting in recent years. This rare weekend patch release indicates the highest level of concern.
- The ransomware seems to spread throughout server networks. Do not connect to any network until you verify your operating system is updated.
- Microsoft issued a patch back in mid-March to close the particular vulnerability in the Remote Desk Protocol that WannaCry attacks. If you have not installed update MS17-010, do so as soon as possible.
- Don’t operate one of roughly half of the PCs in use that has not updated to Windows 10, yet.
- Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date. Get serious about backing up your files with our backup primer.
- Phishing emails may be an additional way WannaCry is spreading, so be on guard.
Keeping your devices up to date is essential if you want to have the latest security patches protecting your data and your identity. While it’s challenging to learn new details when you update, that headache is minor in comparison to losing all your data to ransomware. So don’t delay.