What is Ransomware? How to keep your system safe

By The Creative Branch on 

Posted in: Web

We’ve all heard about the WannaCry ransomware at this point and the damage it has been causing to organisations like the NHS, but what exactly is it? WannaCry is a virus that uses malware attacks to encrypt files on a computer or network, demanding a ransom be paid to in order to have them released.

Arguably the biggest organisation affected so far is the NHS, but large businesses worldwide still using out of date Windows machines are also being targeted. The vulnerability in old windows machines was discovered by the US government before being stolen by hackers and used for this attack.

The virus itself isn’t being spread by scam emails. Instead it is passed between devices within the same network after initially exploiting a hole in security created by some old versions of Microsoft Windows. Scam links, however, are also an easy way to deliver malware so people should still remain careful.

How do I stay safe from a cyber attack?

A kill switch has now been found which has stopped the ‘spread’ of this strain of malware, but it cannot fix any of the machines already infected. Although this strain has been stopped, copy cats and new strains are expected to follow, so it’s important to know how to keep safe…

Home users and individuals should be safe if their devices are kept up to date and running on the latest versions of their respective operating systems. For the further protection, all machines currently in your network should be updated and patched (especially those running older Windows operating systems), since any weak links can make your whole network vulnerable.

What should I do if my system is infected with a virus?

If you have already been infected you should seek expert advise to check your network and ensure it is safe to continue using. It is also key to note that you should absolutely not pay the ransom if the system is infected, as there is nothing in the malware to suggest that this will result in the files being decrypted. It could also make your financial information vulnerable.

To avoid any loss of vital information, it is important to back up to an external device before anything is infected. Either a redundant system like a RAID drive or a drive you disconnect and store safely after each backup would be suitable for this.

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