A Guide to the Recent Ransomware Cyberattacks

Fagjun | Published 2017-05-13 08:44

Unless you've been completely offline for the past 21 hours or so, you've probably heard of the recent spate of cyberattacks that happened across the world. The WannaCry ransomware infected computers in several countries and organizations. Reports say that a criminal organization was behind the attacks. This organization held computer files for ransom in this cyberattack of alarming scale.

Anyone can be at risk of a ransomware attack, though these large-scale attacks typically target organizations and businesses rather than individuals. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be safe. Here are some things that you need to know about the global cyberattacks and how to protect yourself from malicious entities.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware will encrypt your files and deny you access to them.

Ransomware is a specific kind of malware. Malware are software that can harm your computer and its processes. Most malware are annoying and a nuisance, and they can be pretty simple to get rid of with anti-virus software. Some malware, meanwhile, can steal personal data off your computer.

However, ransomware is a different story. Ransomware will lock you out of your files and data. People behind a ransomware attack will ask for money in exchange for letting you have access to your files and data again.

Which Countries and Organizations Were Hit With Cyberattacks?

According to Kaspersky Lab, the ransomware hit about 74 countries, though other reports put that number at 99. These countries include the UK, Spain, France, China, Russia, India, and the Ukraine. The attacks appeared to target countries wherein older and unpatched versions of Windows are in widespread use. You may want to check your country's national news to see if your country had been under attack.

The attacks affected operations in a number of organizations in these countries. Companies and organizations like Fedex, Renault, Telefonica, banks, government organizations, and the UK's National Health Service (NHS) all suffered the attacks. The attacks at the NHS in particular seemed to have had the worst repercussions. Because computer systems were down, medical facilities had to reschedule treatments and operations for patients.

How Does Ransomware Affect Computers?

Here's an old adage for the computer age: “Don't click on links in suspicious emails”. Ransomware can infect a computer if you click or open links or attachments in phishing emails. So if you suddenly get an email that looks wrong somehow, trust your instincts. Don't click on anything in the email and delete it immediately.

In general, you can avoid cyberattacks by being careful and vigilant. If something looks suspicious, take your cursor far away from it and click away from the page. Make sure to update your anti-malware programs and be smart about surfing the net.

How Can You Protect Your Computer from Ransomware?

Careful with those email attachments.

Caution is usually the best way to prevent a cyberattack on your computer. Back your data up and keep your security software up to date. If you have a back up of your files, you won't have to pay a ransom to get the files back.

The cyberattacks took advantage of vulnerable spots in some Windows versions. It's best to install updates and software patches to reinforce those vulnerabilities and protect your computer from malicious software.

Also, remember that malicious emails can seem like they came from companies you trust and regularly interact with. This may sound paranoid, but it may be best to avoid clicking on any links in those emails for the foreseeable future. After all, a healthy dose of paranoia is a good shield against future cyberattacks.

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