WannaCry Ransomware – What Can You Do?
You cannot have missed news about the WannaCry Ransomware attack last week and how it hit the NHS Trusts and various countries around the world. It was everywhere, the main news on every news broadcaster, the main headline in every newspaper, the government held a COBRA meeting. It was treated very seriously indeed. Not just wannacry, there are quite a few ransomware exploits out there, but in all cases the following advice is relevant.
What is WannaCry Ransomware?
But what is WannaCry Ransomware? Quite simply it is a malware program that infects your computer, its sole aim is to password protect your hard drives and then ask you for money to receive the password. In the case of the WannaCry Ransomware the thieves want in Bitcoins, quite a lot of money. But then, so is the cost of losing a companies documents and other sensitive data.
Does it affect the home user? You bet it does! Imagine losing your letters, more importantly all your photos?
Why would you lose those important critical files, documents and cherished photos? Quite simply the people who started the attack have no intention of giving you the password even if you pay. When you pay them, they simply ask for more money, never giving you the password, no matter how much you pay.
Bear in mind, at this point your computer is infected, paying via the link provided will reveal your bank details to thieves, you could end up losing a lot more than the ransom amount!
How does a computer become infected?
The thieves behind WannaCry Ransomware and, indeed, any ransomware out in the wild, are very deceptive. Note the use of the term thieves here, they aren’t hackers. Hackers by definition are anyone who writes code well, so any programmer technically is a hacker. No the people behind ransomware don’t care who they get the money from or the distress it causes, they are in it for one thing, money. So they are thieves.
Most malware and that is what WannaCry Ransomware is, gets into your computer by tricking you. Quite often an infected computer will send you an email with the malware attached, this will normally be from someone you know, so why wouldn’t you open it? Other ways include a pop-up telling you your computer is infected, you have won a prize, offering a service, these are designed to infect your computer as soon as you interact with the pop-up and that includes clicking the close button. Visiting a website that is already infected is another way.
What can you do if your computer is infected?
If your computer is infected with WannaCry Ransomware there is only one course of action that doesn’t involve you giving your bank account contents to thieves. It means wiping the computer and reinstalling a fresh copy of Windows. It is that drastic. The passwords they put on are so long it is impossible to crack them.
Breaking a symmetric 256-bit key by brute force requires 2128 times more computational power than a 128-bit key. Fifty supercomputers that could check a billion billion (1018) AES keys per second (if such a device could ever be made) would, in theory, require about 3×1051 years to exhaust the 256-bit key space.
What Can You Do To Prevent Ransomware?
This is by far the best course of action you should take in light of this weekends attacks. It should be a wake-up call that your files, documents and photos are at serious risk if you don’t protect them. It isn’t just Ransomware that is the threat to those precious files and photos, you computer could catastrophically fail, it could be stolen or otherwise destroyed.
Prevention is better than cure. It is an old adage, but is true today as it was way back when.
- Internet Security Suites
A good Internet Security Suite will protect you from all forms of Malware including Ransomware. Not all Internet Security Suites are the same! Outside of the top three Internet Security Suites (Bitdefender, Norton, Kaspersky, toptenreviews.com 2017) the detection rate of Malware drops down to 92% average or less (toptenreviews.com/bitdefender, 2017). Esthetig, for a long time now has been recommending Bitdefender Internet Security as this comes with ransomware protection built in, it has been consistently winning the top spot for virus and malware detect.Unfortunately, relying on Windows Defender or free Antivirus Tools such as Avast and AVG doesn’t offer the same protection as the top three Internet Security Suites.Having the best Internet Security Suite is only the start however.
- Common Sense
Being malware aware is vital when trying to protect those important files and irreplaceable photos. What does being malware aware mean? It means understanding that malware can come from anywhere, your favorite website, your best friend or family member. Anywhere you visit on the internet (including emails) is a potential source of infection.You should approach every thing you do in our connect world as a potential source of infection. Did you ask for the attachment that came with that email? No, don’t open it. Are there any warning signs on your favorite website such as the big red screen telling you the page may be unsafe – if it does, don’t click to continue, back away and let the company know their site may be infected.If you receive a popup warning of virus infection, computer issues or something to that affect don’t touch the popup with your mouse at all. Simply hold down the alt key and press the f4 button. This will most likely close your browser but you won’t have interacted with the popup. At that point stop what you were doing, update your Internet Security Suite and carry out a full system scan.
- Always keep Windows up to date
It is vital to let Windows carry out updates when it wants to, if you need to put off that latest update, make sure you run it as soon as possible after you have finished your current task.It is time to get rid of Windows XP and Vista. These systems are at greatest risk. Windows XP is no longer being supported by Microsoft, it won’t receive anymore updates. Vista will soon join XP on that list of outdated, won’t be updated, operating systems. If this prompts you to buying a new computer, buy one with the very latest Windows 10. Don’t get fooled by tech support teams who tell you Windows 7 was the best operating system and you should use that. Microsoft have taken the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8 to create Windows 10. They won’t go backwards, Microsoft will always support their latest operating system, right now that is Windows 10 and nothing before it will do, any advice to the contrary of this comes from dinosaurs who don’t realize their favorite operating system is about to become extinct and worse, it is the stomping ground of thieves and crooks who love those outdated codes that can be easily cracked and exploited.
- Backup Backup Backup!
Of course, the very best way to ensure those thieves can’t render your files and loved photos useless is if you have a backup away from your local computer. This could mean keeping a backup of your vital files and photos on an external drive that is only connected to carry out backups, or you make use of the various cloud backup services such as Microsoft OneDrive (built into Windows), DropBox, Google Drive and so on.Backups are vital to ensure you can’t be hacked. Keeping those vital files in several different places is good practice. You should have a copy of your files on an external drive and somewhere that is off-site from the computer. Why? Because there is always the risk of physical theft or fire that can stop you having your files and photos.We use a cycle of backups that includes both physical external drives and cloud storage, yes the cloud storage providers charge once you go beyond their basic offering (15GB in the case of OneDrive) but the price is small compared to the lose those vital files and photos represent.
- Belt and BracesWe recommend a belt and braces approach to Internet Security. Yes the top 3 Internet Security Suite providers provide state of the art security for your computer. But you can never be too careful. We also use a second, free, alternative program to protect our computers. Malwarebytes.org offer a free version of their Malwarebytes program, download and use it regularly. You don’t need to take up their premium offering, your main Internet Security Suite provides the protection they offer (on demand protection) far better. The free version, gives you a checkup to ensure that you haven’t allowed malware through your defenses (so easy to do!). Our personal favorite is Hitman Pro for belt and braces protection, but it isn’t free beyond the 30-day free trial they currently charge (as at May 2017) a year for one computer, they do have offers for multiple computers.
The threat of WannaCry Ransomware has diminished somewhat since Marcus Hutchins, a self-taught security expert found a fix. However, owners of computer who haven’t used their computer since Friday may still have the issue when they turn their computers back on to find they are victims of WannaCry Ransomware.
It isn’t just WannaCry that is the issue however. There are 1000’s of malware being written everyday. Fortunately WannaCry Ransomware was badly written and the fix easy to find. But with thousands of new viruses/malware everyday, some will not be as easy to fix and the only solution is to ensure you do the follows:
- Have a good Internet Security Suite Installed
- Use common sense when visiting pages or opening emails
- Keep Windows up to date (or any other operating system you use)
- Have strong backup routine
- Use a belt and bracers approach to security
Without sounding like a plug for the top 3 internet security suites, they have protection already in place for WannaCry Ransomware, other ransomware, malware and viruses – even those not written yet.
It is up to you to ensure security of your files and photos, don’t leave it until it is too late. If you are unsure what to do or how to do it, we can help.
Call us now on 01492 580572 or email us, to protect your precious files and photos