Synopsis: Guest Contributor, Samuel Rowland, has looked into the recent news articles about the global computer hack known as WannaCry or WannaCrypt. He offers guidance on what to look for and how to protect yourself. Enjoy.
To quote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Don’t Panic”. Yes, I think we are all aware of the recent and ongoing ransomware cyberattack. For those who don’t know, ransomware is malware that encrypts all of a user’s files before demanding a fee to unlock them. This malware – known as WannaCry or WannaCrypt – specifically says that you have 7 days to pay about $300.00 in BitCoin payments before they lock your files away forever. The program enters your system usually through an attachment to an email that is usually, but not always, a zip file. When this file is opened or previewed, it instills the malware. This sort of virus will force you to wipe your entire hard drive and restore your files from whatever backups you have, so it’s best to learn how to protect yourself.
Who Is At Risk?
First off, I wasn’t kidding when I said not to panic. The malware only affects specific types of Windows operating systems. So anyone using Apple, Linux or any other non-Microsoft OS is safe from this particular virus. Windows Users are also safe from the virus if they are using one of the currently supported Windows systems, Windows 8 and Windows 10, and have kept the auto-update feature on. A patch was recently released on all supported computers this March to resolve the security loophole that this iteration of WannaCry uses to insinuate itself into your computer. So, as long as you have kept a consistent update schedule, you should be fine. However, at the moment, everything from Windows 7 backwards; including Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows ME; is not supported and did not automatically receive this update.
How To Protect Yourself
So, now that we have established who is vulnerable to this sort of attack, let’s talk about what you can do to prevent being hit. As stated before, the easiest way is to make sure you have downloaded the update that patched the exploit WannaCry uses: update MS17-010. If you have an older operating system, all is not lost though. In response to the incidents, Microsoft has released similar custom patches for earlier systems that you can download from the links at the bottom of this article for free.
Next, even if you have the update, be very careful with the emails you receive. Before you open an attachment on any email, make sure to follow these guidelines. Do you know the sender? If not don’t open it. Were you expecting an email with those files from the sender? If not, don’t open it. Is it a zip file? If it is, you probably shouldn’t click on it. Also, speaking of zip files, make sure that you have not hidden extensions for known file types. Often, the files containing the ransomware are titled something innocuous such as “Invoice 8-17-17”, to take advantage of the hidden file types feature.
Lastly, you need a good antivirus program suite. This is something you should have regardless, but it’s always good to make sure you have adequate protection at this very moment. If you have Windows 10, you have the Windows Defender antivirus suite bundled with it. You just have to make sure that it is activated and that the virus definitions are kept up-to-date. You can confirm that you are covered by Windows Defender here. If you are using Windows 8 or just want some extra protection, I can recommend a few other suites: Kapersky, Trend Micro Antivirus +, and MalwareBytes (our office uses this).
I hope that this post has been informative and helpful. To all of you out there: stay sharp, stay safe. To download English language Windows security updates, click on the link below for your current operating system:
- Windows Server 2003 SP2 x64
- Windows Server 2003 SP2 x86
- Windows XP SP2 x64
- Windows XP SP3 x86
- Windows XP Embedded SP3 x86
- Windows 8 x86
- Windows 8 x64
P.S. Stuck on XP
If you are stuck on Windows XP or Vista because your favorite software application won’t run on Windows 10, we can help you. We can find ways to run the software in XP mode, or upgrade the software. We can also help you find equivalent software and migrate your old data. If you need help, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.