What to do NOW to Avoid Massive Ransomware Attack

The biggest, most invasive, ransomware outbreak in history is underway.  It’s called WannaCry, and it has infected computers in at least 74 countries, primarily in Russia.  The Securelist cyber security website reported that there have been more than 45,000 attacks worldwide, but added, “It’s important to note that our visibility may be limited and incomplete and the range of targets and victims is likely much, much higher.”

And what does WannaCry do?  Let’s just say its aptly named.  If your computer is infected, you will first notice that you can’t access your files, photos, videos, documents, or anything else stored on your computer.  Then, you will simply see this:

The world does not end, but you have to pay about $300 (Bitcoin only, of course). And then, you have access to your files again.

How to Protect Yourself

Take the next few minutes and take steps to ensure you don’t become the next victim WannaCry, or any other strain of ransomware:

1) Back up Your Files

Do you run regular backups of your computer? Are you sure? If you think you do, now would be a good time to see if you can easily access your backup, and how often you’re back up runs. If you have not run a back up in a long time, start one right now.  A backup of your entire computer, which lets you wipe your hard drive and completely, is the best way to protect against ransomware. Ransomware like WannaCry targets files that are stored on your computer. So the best defense is to keep a copy of those files on another computer, or another storage device.

But, if you don’t have a lot of files and photos, or if most of your information is on cloud – based services, like salesforce.com, Google docs, etc., then you can simply back up your files to a flash drive.  It’s not a great solution for long term, but if you are not going to be able to sleep until you know your files are safe, maybe you should make a quick errand to a local office supply shop, and buy a flash drive with enough memory to hold your files.

2) Run All Windows Updates

Remember that notification that keeps telling you to run the latest update?  Time to run it.  Not soon, now.  So far, it seems that this Ransomware is specifically designed for computers that run a Microsoft Windows Operating system. Here is a great article to help you figure out if your Windows computer is up to date: https://www.lifewire.com/how-to-check-for-install-windows-updates-2624596

WannaCry Background:

In the beginning, the NSA had a cyber-exploit exploit codenamed “EternalBlue,” which was one of the 12 different exploits targeting Microsoft Windows that were made publicly available on the internet through the Shadowbrokers information dump on April 14, 2017.  Microsoft quickly posted this blog which said that all of the exploits had been patched, some as recently as one month earlier, causing some to speculate that Microsoft was informed in advance.

Of course, these update are only effective if you install them on you Windows computer, so Run those Updates!
The EternalBlue exploit is not the same as ransomware, rather it is the method used to exploit a vulnerability that existed in Windows before the update, so think of EternalBlue as a Ransomware delivery device.

And, if you don’t know what ransomware is, it is a nasty form of digital extortion that effectively changes all of your files so that you can no longer read them.  The criminal then sends you a pop-up message to your screen that is literally a ransom note that tells you how much to pay, and to whom, so that your files can be restored to your control.

For more information about protecting yourself online, read Digital Habits. Or, for a FREE chapter, click here.


Published by

David W. Schropfer

David W. Schropfer is the CEO of SAFE (Smartphone Authentication For Everyone), a cybersecurity company in New York (www.theSafe.io).  Every day, he and his team of professionals keep the people who use The SAFE Button protected from some of the most common traps, hacks and attacks that target computer systems of all sizes. David is the author of the bestselling cybersecurity book, Digital Habits: 5 Simple Tips to Help Keep You and Your Information Safe Online. His previous books, including The Smartphone Wallet and industry whitepapers, predicted some of the biggest trends in the payments, mobile, and security industries.  Since graduating Boston College, David earned an Executive MBA from the University of Miami.