Unless you missed the news, there was a worldwide ransomware attack that affected 200,000 computers in over 150 countries the week of May 12. This was a problem that should never have even happened at all. So, how did it happen?
The affected computers were not ‘updated.’ The update would have patched a serious vulnerability and prevented the infection. Government agencies, companies and individuals, who had not yet installed the patches, via an update, had suffered the consequences.
This strain of ransomware, known as WannaCrypt or WannaCry, was developed to take advantage of a Microsoft Windows Operating System flaw. Microsoft had already issued an update to eliminate this flaw. But only those who timely updated their computers when the security patch became available were safe from infection.
The lesson learned here is to always, always keep your computers updated. You should set them to automatically do these updates as soon as they become available. Microsoft usually issues an update on the second Tuesday of each month. It has come to be known as Patch Tuesday. So set your calendar to have all your devices do their updates at end of the day on those Tuesdays.
This attack was easily spread using phishing emails. These tainted emails include links or attachments that lure unsuspecting victims into clicking on or opening the attachments which contain the ransomware. As I have repeatedly advised, again and again, never ever click on links or open attachments, unless you are 110 percent sure and have verified that it is legitimate!
Additionally, many of the infected computers were using outdated operating systems. Microsoft no longer issues security patches or updates for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. If you are still using an outdated operating system, it is imperative that you move up to a newer one so your computer can be protected from dangerous exploits.
Microsoft has taken the unprecedented step of providing a security patch for these unsupported operating systems. Go here for Microsoft’s free security updates for older operating systems: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/msrc/2017/05/12/customer-guidance-for-wannacrypt-attacks/
Lastly, to help prevent losing your files from ransomware, you must always back up your files, either in the cloud or copy important files to a separate external hard drive or flash drive. Never pay a ransom! Here is a website: https://www.nomoreransom.org/ that provides free decryption tools that have proven to be effective against many, but not all, strains of ransomware.
Linda Vitale is on a mission to empower and educate the public about Scams, Fraud and ID Theft. Get her book: Scam Me Once, Can’t Get Scammed Again at www.amazon.com.