Should We Expect A More Destructive Global Cyber-Attack Soon?
The world experienced a global virus attack by a ransomware known as WannaCry on 12th May 2017. The attack affected several prominent companies and organizations across the world.
According to a report by the BBC, WannaCry affected FedEx in the US, NHS in the UK, some factories in France, and several computers in Russia. The impact of the attack was serious in some countries for instance; heart surgeries had to be canceled in the UK. It was estimated to have affected over 150 countries.
What is Ransomware?
This term is a combination of two words, ransom and ware. Ransom is a form of payment that is demanded in exchange for the release of a prisoner. Ware is a word broken off from the term soft-ware.
Ransomware is therefore a piece of software that maliciously disrupts the use of computer resources until a specified payment is made to the creators of the software. In other words, it is malicious software used for blackmail.
The design, spread, and discontinuation of the ransomware leaves a lot of questions. According to Marcus Hutchins who discovered a way to control the WannaCry, the worm was poorly designed. Simply registering the domain to which he discovered the worm was linked, discontinued its spread.
In addition, the attackers demanded a ransom of only $300 to $600. If the worm was poorly designed and little money was demanded for the release of files it affected, then could it be that the designers were running a test before releasing the final version? If this prediction is true, then the world should expect a more destructive global cyber-attack soon, either in the short or long run.
How to protect yourself from future ransomware attacks
Hire a security expert
The fact that a simple malware affected and disrupted critical operations of very prominent companies reveals that global information security is a failure. Companies have become reluctant in monitoring and managing information security. This is possibly because companies do not hire information security experts as part of their core IT staff.
From now onwards, wise companies should introduce a new job role for information security personnel. This person who will strictly focus on monitoring and managing information security.
Perform regular backup of data
Reports reveal that some companies that paid the ransom do not have their data backed up. For such companies, if they had no data backup, then they are in very big trouble. They will not be able to operate normally again any time soon. This is very serious because for some companies, losing information, means the end of business.
To avoid becoming a victim of such, backup your data regularly in multiple places using one of the many backup methods. Some of the popular backup options include writing files to a CD or DVD or External Hard disk, keeping hard copies of information in file folders, creating a backup drive partition, and backing up in the cloud using Google drive, SkyDrive among others.
Install software patches and updates
Software patches are software updates that software companies release occasionally to help upgrade it to the latest version, fix bugs or errors in the software, and make the software stable. Consequently, these updates are very essential for improving computer and information security.
WannaCry affected Windows-based machines. According to a report from Microsoft, the company had released software patches recently. It is supposed that either some of the affected companies were still using old versions of windows operating system or they had not installed the software patches.
Install and update security antivirus programs
Make sure that you install a good antivirus program on your computer to protect your information from virus attacks. Additionally, update your antivirus program at least once every two days and scan your computer regularly. Examples of prominent antivirus programs include; AVG, Avast, Avira, Eset/nod32, Kaspersky, Mcafee, and Microsoft Security Essentials among others.
Avoid opening zipped files from unknown sources
Zipped files from unknown sources could contain malicious code. Clicking them triggers an execution and as a result, may damage your useful system files.
Avoid opening email files with .exe extensions
Emails with .exe extensions are application programs. When you download and open it in your computer, it runs and installs the program. If it is a worm or virus, it infects your computer and damages your useful files containing important information.
These simple tips should help you improve your information security but on a large scale, the ransomware attack was devastating and it is an eye opener for companies, organizations, and institutions across the globe to wake up and take information security more seriously.