Are You Protected? How To Avoid Ransomware Attacks

The ransomware has been identifed as Wanna Cry- here shown in a safe environment on a security researcher's computer. /BBC

"With all ransomware attacks we recommend that people always have their operating systems and their applications completely patched and up-to-date, making sure that they have all of their files backed up and stored off-line and of course ensuring that their firewalls and anti-viruses are all installed and fully functional as well". Do not enable macros, cybersecurity company Symantec says.

One takeaway is sexy, edgy.

There isn't a permanent fix for WannaCry, but Microsoft said its team has been working "around the clock since Friday to help all our customers who have been affected by this incident". But in WannaCry's case, based on the amount that people have doled out so far, it may not have been as lucrative as they expected.

An exploit was stolen from the National Security Agency (NSA) of the U.S. two months ago, and soon after Microsoft patched all supported versions of Windows. Morey Haber, vice president of technology, BeyondTrust has the following advice for such users, "For organizations running Windows XP download the end of life exception patch from Microsoft and apply it immediately".

Problems with cyber security in NHS organisations were highlighted past year by Dame Fiona Caldicott, the national data guardian, who warned that issues were given insufficient priority and that health bodies persisted in using obsolete computer systems, The Times said. In digital years, that's old. "Think about how antiquated that feels to us today", Smith says.

If this ransomware attack has proven anything, investing in security isn't just a good idea, it's mission critical. Microsoft issued a patch for this vulnerability back in March, but people are unfortunately slow to update.

"This is a wake-up call for the NHS but also more generally to businesses around the country".

A New York Times opinion piece expected Microsoft to provide security updates to dated software forever.

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The original attack lost momentum after a security researcher took control of a server connected to the outbreak. Criminals got a hold of it and tweaked it.

The attack mostly impacted computers in Europe and Asia and for the most part spared North America.

"There are some rules and some policy that can be introduced where everybody knows how the government is going to handle these certain situations", said Greg Martin, CEO of San Francisco cybersecurity firm JASK and a former cybersecurity adviser to the FBI, Secret Service and NASA.

The virus was able to infect many systems on Friday because some users didn't install the latest security update, leaving computers vulnerable for any attack.

The ransomware, also called WannaCry or Wana Decryptor, works by exploiting a vulnerability in some older versions of Windows.

"The operating systems on our computers and software downloads are managed centrally so that regular users can not download executable files from the internet without administrative rights", he said in an email.

"More action is needed, and it's needed now", he said.

Worldwide standards should compel countries not to stockpile or exploit software vulnerabilities, Smith says. However, he said it's only a matter of time before a malevolent version exists.

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