While you were enjoying a well-deserved weekend, a virus, or ransomware to be precise, was beginning to create havoc across the globe & across industries. More than 200,000 systems have been infected in over 150 countries around the world & India has emerged as the top 5 countries affected by the virus.
Systems at Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), Germany’s national railway, Spain’s biggest phone company and even Fed Ex in the United States have been affected by the virus that demands corporations and individuals pay a ransom to regain files that have been encrypted by the attacker. Without paying the ransom you can’t open your own files!
Sounds scary? Well it’s not for nothing that the virus has been named as Wanna Cry! As soon as you start your Windows machine, you’ll see a notification that says a Windows update is available. It was released on 14th May, even for older OS like Windows XP which Microsoft does not even support anymore. If you are thinking that someone who still uses Windows XP is not worth protecting, here’s one statistics that will baffle you – 95% of the world’s ATMs run Windows XP even today!
Depending on your Windows Update settings, your PC may download & install the update on its own (yes, it’s a critical update & there’s no prizes for guessing that) or just notify you that the update is available. Before opening your email client or your browser, hit that balloon notification first, update & restart your PC. If you do not get any notification, search for the Windows Update program & start it. Click on “Check for updates” on the left column. The new updates KB4019264 and/or KB4014504 should appear on your screen. Install them. If you don’t see anything, do not panic yet. A 14th March security update had already fixed the vulnerability. You are protected! Open your antivirus software and ensure that it’s running and has been updated. If you are still not sure whether you have the latest update on an old OS like Windows XP or Windows 8, visit this link & download the update:
To prevent such attacks from compromising your data in the future, keep these safeguards in mind:
· Don’t click on .EXE attachments
Most mail clients & webmails (including Gmail & Outlook Web Access) do not allow .EXE & a host of other potentially unsafe attachments. If you even have a slight suspicion about an attachment from someone you know, ask for a confirmation. If you don’t know the person, all the more reason not to take a risk (Note: WannaCry did not spread through emails, but a lot of virus do)
· Backup your files
Once in a week, back up your files, but not to another folder on the same PC or even to another PC on the same network. Store your files in the cloud or on an external hard drive.
· Automatic Windows Updates
Yes, some Windows updates have been king size, sometimes to the tune of 300MB. This is why a lot of people turn off automatic updates. You may have to pay a big price for saving your data costs though. Turn it back on right now!
· Get a good anti-virus
A good anti-virus software need not necessarily break your bank. Here’s the top 10 anti-virus softwares according to PC Mag: http://in.pcmag.com/antivirus-from-pc-ma/34241/guide/the-best-antivirus-protection-of-2017 If you still don’t want to spend Rs.1500 p.a, here are some free ones http://in.pcmag.com/antivirus-from-pc-ma/37090/guide/the-best-free-antivirus-protection-of-2017
Help! I’m already hit by the virus!
When you try to open files on your computer, you get a message instead that demands anything between $300 to $600 (Rs.20,000 to Rs.40,000) to “unlock” your files. Even if you decide the pay the price out of desperation, be warned, there is no guarantee that your files will be decrypted. There are lots of users on social media who have made the payment & have been waiting since then.
Go to this link & download the cleanup tool
If you already have a good anti-virus program that somehow did not get updated, wait till Thursday. Most anti-virus companies have promised a patch by then.
I use a Mac. Am I safe?
I store files on Dropbox/Onedrive/Other cloud storage. Are my files safe?
No! Most of these storage platforms ask you to install a client that syncs your files with the cloud storage in real time. That’s a bad idea if your computer gets infected without your knowledge. Manually sync your files once a while.
I got a Whatsapp message not to use the ATM for a few days. Is it true?
Like most Whatsapp messages, the message is a hoax.
Is the worst over?
No, there are variations of the ransomware that have already been reported. They will strike like aftershocks of a big earthquake
Can my mobile/smartphone be affected?