Ransomware is not something new by any stretch of the imagination. However, recent cyber attacks on the UK’s NHS has shone a spotlight on ransomware. Here’s everything you need to know about the Wanna Cry ransomware attack.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is a virus or piece of software which works its way between personal or business computers. When it infects a computer, it freezes the machine and files on the machine. A window on the screen will ask you to pay money to unlock the machine again. This is where the ‘ransomware’ term comes from, as Wanna Cry looks for a $600 ransom to unlock your files.
What is the Wanna Cry ransomware attack on the NHS?
The name ‘Wanna Cry’ comes from a piece of US software designed by the NSA – ‘wannacrypt’. This virus is described as a worm because it burrows into machines, locking everything and then moves on to the next machine. Early reports estimated that Wanna Cry had infected 75,000 machines in 74 different countries. Day one of the attack, 12 May 2017, saw the UK National Health Service crippled, turning patients away from hospitals and rerouting ambulances. The virus initially spreads from something as simple as someone clicking a link.
Are Irish systems at risk?
Initially, it appeared that Ireland had skipped through the attacks fairly unscathed. One day after the attack, late on 13 May, it emerged that an attack may have taken place. The source of this attack was a small stand-alone health facility in Wexford, but this was an isolated incident. Often considered fairly inefficient, the HSE had already shut down external access to their network.
How to avoid ransomware attacks
While Ireland seems to have gotten off fairly lightly, ransomware is a very real threat for internet users. This is far from the first sight of ransomware in Ireland. One particularly well-known virus masquerading as a Garda notification did the rounds a few years ago.
There are some super simple steps you can take to protect yourself from ransomware attacks and other bad things online:
Don’t ignore updates
Look, we get it. Updates are a pain in the arse and often take a whole ten minutes of your day. Absolutely no excuse I’m afraid. Those updates are essential running repairs on your system and also block up security gaps. Updates are bloody important and out-of-date systems were a major weak point that Wanna Cry took advantage of.
Backup your files
Here is the most important thing you’ll ever learn about digital data. If your files don’t exist in three different places, they don’t exist.
If your files don’t exist in three different places, they don’t exist
It’s much easier to backup files than you might think. One version is on your laptop, another on an external hard drive and another in the cloud. The cloud doesn’t have to be fancy either as Google and Dropbox offer you loads of storage for free.
With all your files backed up, you can flip the bird to anyone thinking they’re holding you to ransom.
Install some sort of anti-virus on your machine
Again, this doesn’t have to cost a fortune. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost anything. There are loads of anti-virus packages out there which offer levels of protection for free:
While you’re at it, definitely install Malwarebytes too for good measure. Windows also provides you loads of protection, but that’s only good news if everything is up to date.