Unless you’re living completely off the grid, you were most likely paranoid about the security of your computer over the weekend—and with good reason. The WannaCry hack affected hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries, with costs estimating $4 billion. A ransomware virus that spread like wildfire, the hack illuminated the importance of safeguarding your hardware and avoiding suspect emails.
Ransomware is an incredibly nefarious type of computer virus. Users, many of whom clicked an email link which downloads the virus, find their files encrypted—access to them lost—and a message demanding payment to release the files.
If payment is not remitted, the program increases the cost of release and then threatens to begin deleting files until it is received. The WannaCry ransomware hack appears to be the most dangerous—and successful—of these types of viruses so far, and reinforced the necessity of keeping your operating system updated with the latest security patches.
In this particular situation, the initial infection tool was stolen from the NSA, which allowed hackers to take advantage of vulnerabilities in Windows XP software. Microsoft had released an update that rectified the weakness—but many large companies simply failed to install it.
As a result, the ransomware virus disrupted the ability of Britain’s National Health Service to conduct its work, shut down operations in France’s Renault factories, and infected the computers at FedEx. Businesses, government entities, and individuals are still reeling from this cyberattack—one which was accidentally stopped by a 22-year old who triggered a virtual “kill switch” in the code.
Authorities have already warned that the ransomware virus could immediately return after some tweaks to the coding, so use today’s blog as a reminder to update and protect your systems.