Staying safe in a world of hackers

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Staying safe in a world of hackers

15 May 2017

Jaz Brace

You will have undoubtedly heard about the cyber-attack that hit the NHS and many other companies across at least 11 different countries, with more than 40 hospitals and health facilities across England affected.

Many staff members have been locked out of their computers, unable to access patient medical records, appointment schedules and internal emails. Patients are still being told today to stay home or seek medical advice elsewhere unless they have life or limb-threatening conditions.

So what exactly has happened?

We suspect there is still more to find out but here is what we know at the minute…

Hackers have managed to access tens of thousands of computers across the world, infecting them with a ransomware that effectively acts like a hostage-taker, demanding a ransom be paid to get your files back.

Friday’s attack saw computer screens showing a message that demanded $300 in bitcoin in exchange for the decryption key that would unlock the files. The message then goes on to say that if the amount is not paid in full by three days’ time then it would double in cost.

@myleslongfield

How was it done?

The attack was carried out using the ransomware software WanaCrypt0r 2.0 (also referred to as Wanna Decryptor, WannaCry or Wcry). The specific version used was only a few weeks old and had just recently been updated, making it particularly hard to spot.

The hackers sent an email when a zip file attached to it in this case; then when people clicked on it their computers became infected. The severity of the hack didn’t stop there though as the ransomware spread through the hospitals’ and business’ computer networks. Clifford Neuman, University of Southern California’s Centre for Computer Systems Security Director, explained, “Once you get a foothold in the system, other users will start to run those pieces of software” (Washington Post).

Here’s a closer look into how it was carried out…

The Washington Post

Who is at risk?

It is clear that the NHS are a major victim but other organisations worldwide, in particular Spain and Russia, have also been hit hard by the attack.

Anyone with a computer or device is at risk though, with experts predicting another outbreak in the near future. Downloading infected software or PDFs or clicking on links or attachments from phishing emails will all put you directly at risk. You can read more about protecting yourself from phishing emails here.

How can you stay safe?

To start with, make sure everything is backed up, therefore if you were to unfortunately get hacked, you would be able to retrieve your files from another source without even having to consider paying the ransom.

If you are running a business, as well as making sure everyone in the business regularly backs up their files and data, you should also have a plan in place for what procedures and actions need to take place if anything was to happen.

We also advise thinking strategically when setting up access permissions for different employees; only give them access to what they will need, so that most users do not have access to the whole system. This will make it harder for ransomware to infect anything.

It is always good to know about the different types of attacks and what you can do to protect yourself, get in touch to find out more about how we can help you with this.

If it does happen to you, should you pay the ransom?

Our advice is no. By paying it you are only encouraging the hackers to continue doing what they are doing. You also have no confirmation that they will keep to their word and return the files after they have been paid.

Still have more questions?

If you are still unsure on what exactly it is you should be looking out for or how you can protect yourself and your business, get in touch with us via emailing hellow@phew.org.uk or call 01234 779 054.

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