Short Bytes: The WannaCry ransomware delivered some devastating results when it struck 99 countries and disrupted health care organizations in the blink of an eye. Ransomware should never be trifled with because it can potentially lock you out of your computer, meaning important and sensitive data can be compromised. Here, we explain the nature of the WannaCry ransomware and how you can fulfill your part to make sure you are secure from it.WannaCry ransomware is a malware that nearly everyone who uses the internet frequently has become familiar with, thanks to the outcome that took place when it affected 100+ countries during its malicious run.
With more and more devices and machines expected to be connected to the internet in the foreseeable future, it is imperative that you know what you are up against. To help you prepare for the worst, here is everything you need to know about the WannaCry ransomware and how you can protect yourself and your data against it.
What is WannaCry Ransomware? Who started this mess?
The vulnerability behind WannaCry ransomware was first discovered by the NSA, and afterward, it was made public by a hacking group called ShadowBrokers during the month of April. While software companies of major operating systems like Microsoft, Google, and Apple can patch vulnerabilities that can be exploited by this malware, malevolent hackers are also one step ahead as they can create a new version that can have negative global ramifications on millions of computers and machines.
WannaCry ransomware can target computers that are connected to the internet and can lock the owner from accessing their files by encrypting their entire data. There is no possible way to decrypt the data yourself, which is why hackers have a huge leverage against you when they ask for ransom to decrypt your data and allow you to access your data again, hence the term ransomware.
Nowadays, with storage drives’ capacity increasing, thanks to the influx of data being stored, you are bound to have sensitive data present on the hard drive. But if you’re locked out from your computer, you will have no choice but to pay the ransom to get access to that data once more.
The only other alternative is that you lose all of that data and start from scratch, and it is safe to assume that millions of users and are not willing to go through that ordeal.
Who are affected by WannaCry?
Potentially, anyone who is connected to the internet can and will be affected by WannaCry. However, a partial blame should also be directed towards thousands of organizations and millions of computer users who continue to run obsolete operating systems that have not received security updates for the longest time. The plain victims are users who continue to run Windows XP even after Microsoft stopped releasing timely software and security updates for the platform.
Accidental WannaCry Kill Switch and its new versions
A few days ago, a security researcher from MalwareTech managed to accidentally halt the WanaCrypt0r ransomware with a kill switch and later admitted that he was not aware that this would take place. However, after this kill switch, hackers have been able to release newer versions of the WannaCry malware, dubbed as WannaCry 2.0. This improved version cannot be stopped by an older kill switch, so after studying how the original one was made, ethical hackers can come up with their own new and improved methods to stop this from spreading.
Why are hackers asking for ransom in Bitcoin?
Hackers requiring payments in the form of Bitcoin is actually a smart move on their part because ransom being demanded in cryptocurrency form is untraceable to the hackers’ actual location. Suppose if these hackers end up providing bank account details, now authorities would be able to track down their location with this information and put an end to their nefarious activities. In short, not only are these hackers dangerous, they are potentially getting richer while playing it safe.
Is the WannaCry attack over?
It is far from over as newer versions of the WannaCry ransomware is spreading. Named WannaCry 2.0, this malware is designed to be more effective when it comes to targeting millions of users and because there is not a dedicated kill switch designed to stop this. It looks like the hackers might be able to bring their mission to completion.
How to protect yourself from WannaCry?
First, and foremost, you should backup your data immediately because in case there is another ransomware attack like this, you will have a contingency plan of your own in place. Even if the hackers have successfully managed to purge your data, you will be at peace knowing that you can restore it immediately.
Another thing you have to keep in mind is that you should avoid opening up email attachments that you do not recognize. Updating your operating system through timely updates is also good practice because it will keep you one step ahead in protecting your system from an impending attack.
Keep in mind that Microsoft recently rolled out a security update for Windows XP to patch up the vulnerability exploited by the ransomware but software companies simply cannot release security patches every time the some ransomware strikes with lethal outcomes.
Part of why the attack was carried out successfully was because millions of computers continued to run Windows XP. If you are unable to help your own system, then companies cannot do your job for you.
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What to do if my PC is infected by WannaCry? Should I pay the ransom?
It all depends on what sort of data has been encrypted. As mentioned above, sensitive data can be found on all computers but if you do not have a backup ready to be deployed in case you become a victim of the WannaCry malware, then that is where you will have to make a hard choice. You can either choose to decrypt your data, pay the hackers the ransom and encourage their vile activities, or you can choose to contribute to the greater good by having your data erased and starting all over again.
Naturally, it is difficult to ascertain the situation for many people because it is not just individual systems that we are talking about, but several computers that are hooked onto a single network in a company. Several organizations obviously cannot afford to lose such data and because the hackers usually detail a small amount of payment to decrypt that data, it is less of a headache to start from scratch so many people will opt to lose a small percentage of their savings to get access to their computer once more. In the past, there have been incidents when hackers demanded more ransom after the initial payments. So, it isn’t a perfect choice.
In any case, having a backup of your important data is extremely important because you never know when disaster may strike.
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