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home : columns : rick frederickson July 21, 2017

5/17/2017 10:23:00 AM
Massive cyberattack affects few local PCs

Rick Frederickson
Computer Technician

Wannacry ransomware swept around the world with lightning-like speed last Friday, crippling hospitals, universities, businesses and other PCs. Wannacry is aptly named as it locks up files and asks for a ransom to unlock them. The malware is installed by a worm that infects Windows systems and spreads across networks by exploiting various unpatched vulnerabilities.
We've seen ransomware attacks in the past, but never spreading so quickly on a global scale. Europe, Russia and the far east were particularly hit hard. As I write this more than 100,000 organizations in 150 countries were hit, including the United States.
However, the U.S. was not hit nearly as hard as other countries. Why is this?
The importance of updates. Quite simply put, most PCs in the U.S. have fairly up-to-date versions of Windows (7, 8 and 10). Most of those have regular Windows updates. You see, Microsoft released the patch for the vulnerability that Wannacry uses back in March. If your computer was updated since then it should be patched and not vulnerable - this time. In other countries many computers still use old (Vista, XP) or illegal versions of Windows. Because of this they are not getting the latest security updates.
How to protect your computer. First, make certain you have a supported operating system (Windows 7, 8 or 10). If you have purchased a computer in the last seven years it should be one of these. Second, make certain it is getting Windows updates. Either go to the Control Panel/Updates or Settings/Updates and check for updates. Third, be very wary of email attachments - never click on one that you cannot verify. Fourth, back up. I cannot stress this enough. Even if you are hit by ransomware, a good backup will allow you to get your files back without paying a ransom.
The future? Honestly, it frightens me. Nations, public institutions, businesses and the average user need to start taking security seriously. What if a new attack is released before a patch is made available? The consequences for the world economy and global security could be devastating. It is that important folks.

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