WHAT IS WANNACRY
It is a version of malicious software (malware) called ransomware. Typical ransomware locks your computer and does not unlock your computer until you pay the amount of money\ransom that the hacker wants. I first wrote about ransomware in 2012. I said that the use of ransomware would increase. It is very effective and almost impossible to circumvent once it is on your computer. Also, the bad guys make a lot of money.
HOW WANNACRY INFECTS YOUR COMPUTER
WannaCry attacks a flaw in Windows computers. WannaCry is spread by clicking on an infected link in an email, infected link in an online ad or Dropbox link. Back in March Microsoft released a fix (patch) for this problem. If anyone updated their computers with the patch, they would not have to worry about being infected with WannaCry.
HOW DID IT START
A group called “The Shadow Brokers” is taking credit for WannaCry. The group used a leaked hacking tool from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to create WannaCry. Yes, the same NSA that had documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It seems to have started in the U.K. It has quickly spread to over 99 countries, including the U.S., China, Russia, Spain, Italy, and Taiwan.
Specifically, the first infections happened with the computers of the British National Health Service (NHS). Many hospitals were forced to reject patients, cancel operations and reschedule appointments.
WHAT DOES IT DO
WannaCry encrypts all of your files. Encrypted files can’t be read or used in any way. In order to get the use of your files\computer back, the hackers demand payment of $300. You have up to six hours to pay the ransom. The ransom goes up each hour you don’t pay. If you don’t pay after 6 hours, your files will forever be locked.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Be cautious and careful. Do not click on suspicious links.
Keep your operating system (OS) updated.
Use a good antivirus program and keep it updated as well. Programs worth looking into are Avast, Malwarebytes, Bitdefender and RansomFree.
Backup your files to an external hard drive. Do not constantly keep your external hard drive connected to your computer. There are some variants of ransomware that will search out external hard drives and lock the data on it as well.