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Over 200 thousand computers blocked by 'wannacrypt' attack in 150 countries
An international cyber attack named "wannacrypt," a derivative of the ransomware virus has hit 150 countries, infecting over 200 thousand computers. Ransomware as its name implies, takes a computer hostage and holds it for ransom. With ransomware attacks, the malware locks down a target machine, encrypting its data and preventing the owner from accessing it until he or she agrees to pay up.
Those behind the attack which broke out, Friday May 12, 2017 are asking for at least 300 euros equivalent to FCFA 197,000in bitcoins for each computer affected by the attack. The cybercriminals threaten to destroy the files unless a ransom is paid, generally in untraceable bitcoins.
Beside the 200,000 computers hit by the malware according to Europol officials, Chinese state media reported that 40,000 businesses and institutions have been affected, including universities, gas stations and city services.
The software attack has taken a toll on many people in the real world. Health care providers in Britain's National Health Services, for example, were forced to turn ambulances away and cancel or delay cancer treatments for patients over the weekend, though officials say 80 percent of the National Health Services' systems were unaffected and that the disruption is easing.
The ransomware targets Windows computers, particularly those running Windows XP, an aging operating system that Microsoft largely stopped supporting in 2014. If you are running the most recent version of Windows, or XP with the appropriate security patches, you are spared (though you should really stop using XP right away).
Security experts say the attackcould have been prevented ifmany businesseshad simply kept their machines up to date with the latest software.
Software updates often contain lots of patches that fix bugs and close security loopholes; regularly using Windows Update or the Software Update feature on a Mac will help insulate you from problems. But you can alsoset your devices to install those updates automatically.
ANTIC's IT engineers say to circumvent such an attack,you can:
- Create backups of your most important files, either by downloading them to an external hard drive or by storing them in a cloud-based storage service.
- Use a password manager to create and keep track of unique, hard-to-remember (and thus hard-to-break) passwords for each of your services. It's a little counterintuitive, but experts say it's much more secure than the alternative, which is reusing the same password across multiple websites.
- At work, check with your IT administrator to make sure your organization's devices are protected from ransomware.
- Remember to treat unexpected emails with caution, and read up on phishing — one of the most common types of social engineering attacks used by attackers to compromise machines. Do not open any e-mail attachment with ".exe" extension.