#LIFEHACKS

Ransomware 101: What WannaCry Means To You, And Why You Should Be Worried

  • BY JOSHUA CHRISTIAN SETH
    1 / 6 BY JOSHUA CHRISTIAN SETH

    There’s not much to joke about when it comes to getting your personal information stolen by a powerful ransom virus – especially when it has the ability to shut down an entire hospital. 

    WannaCry, also known as WannaCrypt or WannaCryptor, is the world’s biggest ransomware attack yet, using encryption to inhibit high-earning hospitals, banks, and even government agencies from accessing important confidential information on their servers.

    That is, until they pay a handsome amount of cash -$300 US dollars for each infected computer– in Bitcoins for the hackers to ‘decrypt’ their files. 

    Some hospitals such as Dharmais Hospital and Harapan Kita Hospital inJakarta, Indonesia were even unable to access their patients’ medical records, forcing them to postpone almost all of their planned medical procedures.

    According to Channel NewsAsia, the attacks have hit over 200,000 computers across 150 countries since its first assault on May 17 2017 – and Mr Steve Goh, vice president of APJ at Acronis, states that WannaCry and similar ransomware viruses aren’t going to stop any time soon:

     “Ransomware isn’t a passing fad, but one that will continue to evolve and grow aggressively. It is no longer a distant threat that only happens to ‘other people’.”

    But with these e-invasions being so large-scale, surely ransomware hackers couldn’t care less about the innocent man on the street… right?

    Wrong. “To the everyday consumer, most think that ransomware is something that happens to major enterprises and financial institutions. But these can severely impact their day-to-day lives too,” says Mr Goh.

    Reports of end-consumers being hit by ransomware similar to WannaCry have already surfaced in nearby countries such as Taiwan.

    So the next question would be: How do we, as citizens, defend ourselves against ransomware that even major enterprises are having trouble dealing with?

    Here’s three important facts you need to know about WannaCry and similar ransomware, and what you can do to stay under their radars.

    Related: Your Computer – A Secret Accomplice

     
    Read more
  • FACT #1. IT ATTACKS THE VULNERABLE
    2 / 6 FACT #1. IT ATTACKS THE VULNERABLE

    Hackers, malware, and viruses are like lionesses during a hunt – they go for the weak. WannaCry, as explained by Mr Goh, is no different:

    “WannaCry targets vulnerabilities in the Windows operating system, particularly those that are not regularly updated, do not have any malware protection, or are still using outdated operating systems such as Windows XP.”

    What you should do: If you’ve been ignoring the “New System Update” popup window for a while now, or – for some reason – you’re still using Windows XP (or worse, Windows 7), perhaps its time to get a much-needed upgrade. 

    Or else, if you think getting a new up-to-date computer is the better choice, ensure it has strong malware protection software included in the bundle.

    Related: How To Hackproof Your Smartphone

    Read more
  • FACT#2. IT HITS YOU WHERE IT HURTS…
    3 / 6 FACT#2. IT HITS YOU WHERE IT HURTS…

    There’s no question – we hide a lot of personal stuff in our computers, and the hackers behind WannaCry know that fact. 

    All those private photos of your honeymoon you have stored, your children’s health records, and your credit card details? Once WannaCry infects your computer, it restricts all the access you have to those precious memories and information – and uses it to its advantage.

    “Bank and health records, school assignments, and photos of loved ones are exactly the pain-points that the hackers target, and most of the time consumers actually pay the ransom simply because they can’t afford to lose the data,” explains Mr Goh.

     

    Read more
  • …AND IS A CHEATER
    4 / 6 …AND IS A CHEATER

    If you think getting your personal photos locked off is bad enough, it gets worse – the hackers may even publicise them on the web for everyone to see albeit you paying the ransom, according to some cases mentioned by Mr Goh:

    “[Paying the ransom] is not a guarantee that your data will be restored, as we have seen cases where personal data—such as photos, videos and financial records—were exposed and circulated on the public web.” 

    What you should do: Back up your hard drive, and back it up regularly. It’s more worth it to clear the virus by formatting your hard drive and simply restoring your data after, than to pay hundreds of dollars to gain back access to information that’s rightfully yours.

    Related: Why We Paid Someone To Hack Our Email

     
    Read more
  • FACT #3. IT’S EVOLVING
    5 / 6 FACT #3. IT’S EVOLVING

    What’ worse than an information-encrypting, ruthlessly demanding, cheat-your-money ransom virus? A smart one. 

    “The WannaCry ransomware has quickly evolved to counter any attempts in circumventing its spread,” explains Mr Goh.

    “The blog MalwareTech managed to stem the spread temporarily, because they found a kill-switch in the code. But after this was discovered, the author simply removed the kill-switch, and the attacks resumed.” Of course, there’s nothing stopping other ransomware viruses from doing the same thing.

     

    Read more
  • WHAT ELSE SHOULD(N’T) I DO?
    6 / 6 WHAT ELSE SHOULD(N’T) I DO?

    “Do not open attachments from email addresses that are not familiar,” says Mr Goh. While it may sound obvious, it’s important to know that ransomware infections (and other online viruses in general) usually stem from downloading or clicking suspicious software or links.

    “If an unsolicited attachment is sent from someone you know, treat it with caution and check with the person who sent it to you,” further explains Mr Goh, “There have been cases where computers were attacked by phishing attacks, where consumers are led to believe that the attachment is safe to open because it was from a familiar sender.”

    Related Video: 

    Read more