On May 12, 2017 several businesses around the world were hit by a WannaCry ransomware cyberattack that Europol is calling “unprecedented”. The British National Health Service, French automaker Renault, and FedEx were only a few of the businesses temporarily shut down by this malware. In only two days the WannaCry ransomware campaign impacted thousands of individuals and companies in 150 countries.

What is WannaCry Ransomware?

WannaCry (WannaCrypt, WanaCrypt0r) exploits a vulnerability in Windows operating systems to gain access and encrypt computer files. Like many forms of malware, WannaCry ransomware can be spread through phishing emails, but it also has a computer worm component. Once a single computer is infected it can then infect other computers on the same network, which is why it spread so quickly worldwide.

Microsoft had issued a fix for the known flaw on March 14, 2017, but the update has to be installed in order to protect your computer. The infected computers had not had the necessary Windows updates, leaving them vulnerable to attack. Windows XP is typically excluded from this sort of security update due to ended support in April 2014. However, Microsoft has made a rare security patch available to Windows XP users in the wake of WannaCry ransomware.

While a security researcher who goes by MalwareTech (you can read his version of the events here; it’s really interesting if you like that sort of thing) found a way to prevent the spread of the original WannaCry ransomware, a second wave cyber-attack is expected.

How to Protect Yourself

Install Windows Updates

The most important thing you can do to avoid WannaCry ransomware is to make sure all of your Windows updates have been installed. These updates have been released to patch known issues that have been found in Windows operating systems. If you aren’t sure if updates have been automatically installed on your system you can check manually. See our article How to Update Windows 10 for instructions.

Stop Using Windows XP

Just because Microsoft released a patch this one time doesn’t mean they will do so again. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer, has called the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack “a wake-up call for all of us.” Because Windows XP no longer receives security updates, users of this operating system are much more vulnerable than those who use supported operating systems. If you are still using XP, please consider upgrading.

Think Before You Click

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: don’t click on links in emails that seem dubious. Some classic tactics are “I thought you would like this” or “you will be reimbursed for your over-paid bill, click here.” Don’t fall for it. As always, you want to make sure you aren’t opening attachments in emails that you are unsure about either. Malware, including ransomware, is often sent in email attachments.

Create Backups

There is currently no third-party decryption for computers affected by WannaCry ransomware, and it is not recommended that you pay the ransom to decrypt your files. In the case of ransomware, being proactive is the best solution. Make sure your important files, if not all of your files, are safely backed up to cloud storage or an external drive. This way you can reformat the computer without losing your files.

Invest in a Great AntiVirus

Digital Care AntiVirus provides real-time threat protection to guard your computer from potentially malicious files, like those in email attachments. It intercepts and quarantine threats, and provides frequent updates to ensure your computer is always well protected.

Download a free trial today!


For more information on ransomware check out these Digital Care articles:

Spora: The New Evolution of Ransomware

Doxware: The Latest Online Threat

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