On May 12, 2017, a new cyberattack was orchestrated, infecting more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries. This specific cyberattack is referred to as the WannaCry ransomware attack or “WannaCrypt”. The agenda for this attack is to send a phishing email to a user. When executed, the ransomware encrypts the computer's data and the hackers demand payments of $200 to $600 to unencrypt the data. As a result, a total of 238 payments totaling up to $72,144 have been made as of May 17, 2017. Moreover, the attack affected many hospitals in England and Scotland as well as 70,000 devices including computers, MRI scanners, theater equipment, and blood storage refrigerators.
Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent WannaCry-like ransomware attacks. Many of these attacks are sent through emails as attachments. That said, if you receive an email from an unknown source or an executable file that you do not trust, never click on it. It is important to delete the email/file and empty your email recycle bin. Also, using an old or outdated operating system will put you at risk as well. Many organizations that were affected by the ransomware attack were reported as running Windows XP, which is no longer supported by Microsoft. Therefore, it is important to make sure you are using Windows 7, 8.1, or 10 because of the security updates Microsoft sends out to them. It is also strongly recommended you have an antivirus and firewall program such as Comodo, Kaspersky, or Avira. Most antivirus software has website filtering features which will warn you of unsafe websites. Lastly, you should always back up important data regularly on a separate storage device from your computer. Even using something as simple as a flash drive or online cloud service. Despite taking all the necessary precautions, there is always a chance your system can fail or be compromised. So, if you have sensitive data, always have a backup. You can never be too safe!