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What Is Ransomware? How Can Internet Users Protect Themselves From It?

19 Mai 2017

The old habit of kidnapping people and sending ransom notes with words cut out of newspaper headlines is passé. Unfortunately, the only source for identifying the attack seems to be a single source - so, in other words, beware what you hear about it. If there are none, don't lose hope: There may be new security tools to unlock your files in the future.

Amidst contradictory statement from cyber security experts and the Centre that has left many confused about the impact of global cyber attack WannaCry ransomware in India, multiple reports surfaced claiming a fresh round of infections in the country.

The one consistent thing here is that it is Microsoft Windows that is vulnerable - or, at least, out of date versions of the operating system.

In other words, if people had simply stayed on top of security updates, their machines would not have been infected.

For years, the U.S. National Security Agency used a flaw in the Windows operating system, nicknamed "EternalBlue", to spy on intelligence targets, gathering information from their computer files and electronic communications.

Another lesson is that it's not smart to pay the ransom. In addition, Microsoft also took the very unique step of recently releasing security updates to address the vulnerability for Windows XP and Server 2003, even though they are both years past their Extended Support lifetimes.

Microsoft ended up distributing the free patch for the older versions on Friday - the day the ransomware was detected. It was also reported that many Indian companies after being attacked by WannaCry paid the hackers. It is the third worst hit globally, till now.

On Wednesday security firms Bitdefender and Proofpoint found hackers using the same exploit to spread cryptocurrency-mining malware called Adylkuzz.

The rapid recovery by many organizations with unpatched computers caught out by the attack may largely be attributed to back-up and retrieval procedures they had in place, enabling technicians to re-image infected machines, experts said.

Nicolas Drogou, Head - Security Practice, Asia Pacific, Orange Business Services informed us what he observed in Singapore. FedEx, one of the world's foremost worldwide shippers, was struck at the same time as telecommunications giants like Spain's Telefónica and Russia's MegaFon, and many more global behemoths will surely admit to ransomware infections in the days and weeks ahead. Power companies should have a backup system that can immediately take over the job and maintain the electricity supply to critical infrastructure services, in case of a security breach. Security experts agree that the best protection is to be on a modern, up-to-date system that incorporates the latest defense-in-depth innovations. The malware has affected operations at several hospitals, vehicle factories, subway systems, shops and schools across the globe. In response, some Indian banks refrained from refilling their ATMs, inconveniencing millions of customers across the country. Even, Union IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has reportedly said that the malware has had nearly zero impact on India. The airline industry, for instance, notoriously holds on to legacy infrastructure.

But why was the NHS still using Windows XP? If you prefer using Android, consider switching to one of Google's proprietary handsets, such as the Pixel, which tend to receive Google's software patches as soon as they're released.

And that's just a measure of the electronic consequences of WannaCry. Lives are at stake here.

Bitcoin wallets are open - you can see inside them.

Imagine the chaos at airports, railway stations and hospitals if WannaCry strikes there.

The WanaCry ransomware was aptly named because anyone impacted would "wanna cry".