How to Protect Yourself from the Massive Ransomware Attack

Kathleen Mckinney
May 16, 2017

Critically ill patients are being diverted to unaffected hospitals as computer systems failed in Accidents & Emergency (A&E) units and doctors were locked out of test results, X- rays and patient records.

About 97% of United Kingdom facilities and doctors disabled by the attack were back to normal operation, home secretary Amber Rudd said on Saturday after a government meeting.

He said many NHS hospitals in Britain use Windows XP software, introduced in 2001, and as government funding for the health service has been squeezed, "IT budgets are often one of the first ones to be reduced".

That was the chilling prediction made yesterday by Ron Wainwright, the English-born head of the EU's crimefighting organisation Europol.

Australia appears to have escaped the worst fallout from a huge global ransomware attack, but the Prime Minister's cybersecurity adviser has warned that "this is not game over" in the battle between hackers and security agencies.

"Very few banks in Europe, if any, have been affected by this and that's because they've learned through painful experience about being the number one target in cyber crime, the value of having a strategy in place".

Screenshot of the suspected ransomware message on a GP's computer.

Citing the far-reaching potential impact on customers, Microsoft took the unusual step of offering a custom support security update for users with versions of Windows that are no longer supported. Organizations had two months to update their Microsoft products, which would have protected their systems.

The attacks used ransomware that apparently exploited a security flaw in Microsoft operating systems, locking users' files unless they pay the attackers a designated sum in the virtual currency Bitcoin. Windows 10 machines were not subject to the vulnerability this patch addressed and are therefore not at risk of the malware propagating via this vector. "The numbers are going up; I am anxious about how the numbers will continue to grow when people go to work and turn (on) their machines on Monday morning".

Security agencies have so far not been able to identify who was behind the attack.

The ransomware known as Wanna Decryptor is believed to be responsible.

He said this latest attack was a reminder of the importance of good digital hygiene. So far, he said, not many people have paid the ransom demanded by the malware.

WannaCry has already caused massive disruption around the globe.

The hackers have targeted companies and public bodies that use Windows software, and in Scotland the main targets were 11 area health boards, NHS National Services and the Scottish Ambulance Service while 48 NHS Trusts in England were hit.

"You can't force businesses to patch critical Windows vulnerabilities", said Adrian Sanabria, founder of security firm Savage Security.

The researcher wrote a blog post detailing the creation of a new domain as a "sinkhole" for the ransomware. The country's banking system was also attacked, although no problems were detected, as was the railway system.

"WannaCry" or ransomware is a malware that encrypts content on infected systems and demands payment in bitcoins.

Russia's Interior Ministry acknowledged a ransomware attack on its computers.

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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