What you need to know about the Ransomware threat

News is breaking internationally today with reports about a ransomware strain that has so far hit over 100 countries worldwide.  If you’re not familiar with ransomware, you can probably figure it out from the title.  Hackers gain control of your files and lock you out, demanding you pay them a ransom payment to get your access back.

Nothing hurts more than being locked out of your own files.  From business emails and documents, to personal photos and financial data, losing access to your files can be devastating.

Here’s some tips on how to secure your data and information on this current outbreak:

  • The ransomware (called WannaCry or WannaCrypt) is spreading by way of a Microsoft® (MSFT, Tech30) Windows exploit.
  • Microsoft has issued a patch that needs to be applied to all computers running Windows.  To read about and download the proper version of the patch go here.
  • The malware/virus can be installed on computers by unknowingly clicking on links in email, instant message or websites.  Don’t click on any links you don’t know who they are from.  Even then, you might want to contact the sender first to ensure they weren’t hacked.
  • The ransomware will lock your files and demand a payment, which usually has to be paid in untraceable Bitcoin.   The longer you wait to pay, the higher the fee can escalate.
  • As more often than not, Mac based computers are not affected by this outbreak, although they are not immune to all hacks
  • As of Monday, May 15th, it has been reported that over $70,000 has been paid out by businesses and individuals to the hackers yet there is no confirmation that ANY files have been retrieved.  In other words, if you pay– you will likely NOT get access to your files anyway.
  • Homeland security is advising any individual or company that has been hacked with this ransomeware to contact their local FBI field office.
  • If your website is hosted by Skyhound, it’s also not vulnerable to this hack because we use Unix based servers as opposed to Windows servers.
  • Make sure you have a backup of your files via a cloud base service or an external drive.   Unplugging the external drive during the heightened transmission period may be a good move so that if your computer is infected, it won’t affect the external drive as well.   You’ll just have to remember to plug it back in to continue making backups so you don’t get too far behind.

Be sure to update your computers as soon as possible.  Talk to your IT department at work if you can’t manage updates yourself.   Patching is relatively simple and will virtually eliminate your susceptibility to this attack. Having anti-virus programs running is great– but patching your Windows software is the best way to avoid this hack.

Stay digitally safe out there!