Stay informed to protect yourself from ransomware attacks.
The INSIDER Summary:
- Last Friday, a massive cyberattack spread to over 150 countries before it was stopped.
- Victims paid hackers over $49,000 in Bitcoin to regain access to their personal data.
- With ransomware attacks on the rise, you should know how to protect yourself.
- Make sure to update your computer regularly, back up your data, and be wary about clicking on links or opening attachments.
By now, you've probably heard or read about the massive cyberattack that spread to at least 150 countries last Friday. Known as WannaCry, the ransomware affected an estimated 200,000 victims and plunged everything from businesses like FedEx to England's National Health Service into chaos.
It was finally stopped by 22-year-old Marcus Hutchins over the weekend, but not before people paid over $49,000 in Bitcoin to the hackers. Hutchins, a British cybersecurity researcher, found a garbled domain name hidden in the ransomware and registered it for $10.69 — accidentally but effectively activating a "kill switch" and stopping the attack in its tracks.
However, as the dust settles after the attack, Hutchins has an important message for the world: "This is not over." He warns that once the hackers change their code, they can easily attack again, and it's "quite likely" that there's "another one coming."
In the face of such imminent threat, it's important to stay informed about what ransomware is, and how to protect yourself from future attacks. Here's what you need to know:
Ransomware takes your computer hostage and demands money for its safe return.
Simply put, ransomware encrypts (i.e., blocks your access to) the files on your computer and forces you to pay a certain amount of money to regain access. In the attack over the weekend, hackers demanded $300 in Bitcoin in exchange for victims' data.
Given the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks, you should always veer on the side of caution. "Stop, look, and think before you click on a link sent to you in an email or open an attachment," suggests famous hacker Kevin Mitnick.
Cyberattacks like ransomware are effective because most people don't back up their data.
It's easy to take your phone or computer's storage for granted — that is, until you're the victim of a ransomware attack.
Back up your computer on a daily basis, Mitnick recommends, so you don't have to pay a hacker's ransom just to get your data back. The process is simple, whether you use a PC or a Mac.
You can also back up your computer to an external hard drive or to online services like Dropbox or BackBlaze, so you can access your files from anywhere you want. That way, even if you fall victim to ransomware, you can just restore your computer from your latest backup.
Here's a handy guide on how to back up your computer.
If you use an older operating system, you're more vulnerable to an attack.
WannaCry hit Russia and India especially hard because both countries still use older Windows XP operating software, according to chief cybersecurity research officer Mikko Hypponen.
On Friday, Microsoft released security patches specifically for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 to protect against the WannaCry attack. And as Hutchins suggests, "Enable Windows update, update, and then reboot."
In other words, it's imperative that you always keep your computer's software up to date — even if it's tempting to ignore update reminders — and install security patches when they're available.
This great overview and other interesting articles can be found at the source.