Tuesday, 16 May 2017 22:58

How to protect yourself from the global ransomware attack

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If your computer is infected, then a message appears saying all of your files have been encrypted until you pay a ransom.(Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

Security experts are bracing for more fallout from Friday's worldwide WannaCry ransomware attack, which has so far affected more than 150 countries and major businesses and organizations, including FedEx, Renault and Britain's National Health Service. But if you're just hearing about this attack — or waking up to an unresponsive computer of your own — here's what you need to understand about what law enforcement officials have called the biggest such attack in history.

What's ransomware?

Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that, as its name implies, takes a computer hostage and holds it for ransom. In this case, the attackers are asking for at least $300 in bitcoins for each computer affected by the attack.

With ransomware attacks, the malware locks down a target machine, encrypting its data and preventing the owner from accessing it until he or she agrees to pay up.

How many people have been affected by the current strain, WannaCry?

Over the weekend, Europol officials said that some 200,000 computers have been hit by the malware. But that number has almost certainly risen as people in Asia — who had logged off for the workweek before WannaCry began spreading — have returned to work. On Monday, the Japanese electronics maker Hitachi, a prominent Korean theater chain and the Chinese government said their systems had been affected. Chinese state media reported that 40,000 businesses and institutions have been hit, according to NPR, including universities, gas stations and city services.

And that's just a measure of the electronic consequences of WannaCry. The software attack has taken a toll on many people in the real world. Health care providers in Britain's NHS, for example, were forced to turn ambulances awayand cancel or delay cancer treatments for patients over the weekend, though officials say 80 percent of the NHS's systems were unaffected and that the disruption is easing.

Are victims paying the ransom?

Some are. The news site Quartz has set up a Twitter bot to track the bitcoinwallets linked to the attack, which are growing fatter by the minute.

Source: This article was published on washingtonpost.com By Brian Fung

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