We hope you don’t WannaCry
12th May, 2017 – It was a regular Friday with most of the world dragging themselves towards the weekend. Everything was normal till one-by-one, just like a chickenpox outbreak in a neighborhood, data stored on over 2 lakh computers were encrypted and locked users out of their own data. This happened not only the home PC levels but also across various banking and financial institutions all around the world. WannaCry Ransomware is the new villain in town with a demeanor vicious enough to send the world authorities into panic.
So, What is the WannaCry Ransomware all about?
Imagine one fine day someone like this happens –
All your doors, windows, refrigerator, oven, everything is locked with an alien-like complex lock which nobody in the world except the maker knows to unlock. Further, you find a sticky note asking you to put a ransom amount in a letterbox with nothing written on the envelope and promises to tell you the code to unlock the locks once the ransom is received. However, if you don’t pay in 3 days – the ransom doubles and after seven days everything locked will be destroyed.
This may seem like a fancy sci-fi plot, but this is exactly what the WannaCry ransomware has done to data saved on over 2 lakh computers across 150 countries.
The WannaCry ransomware enters your computer (just like a virus, only more complex and powerful) and encrypts (read: locks) all files and will decrypt (read: unlock) it only when it receives the ransom- US$300 in bitcoins. Why bitcoins? Because it preserves anonymity. Click here to read more about bitcoins. A 3-day delay in payment doubles the ransom and a week’s delay will trigger a permanent deletion of all your files.
How does it spread?
Ransomware is a programme that gets into your computer, either by clicking or downloading malicious files. It then holds your data as hostage.
However, some security analysts say the infections in the case of WannaCry seem to be deployed via a worm, spreading by itself within a network without being clicked on.
The programme encrypts your files and demands payment in order to regain access. Security experts warn there is no guarantee that access will be granted after payment.
Some forms of ransomware execute programmes that can lock your computer entirely, only showing a message to make payment to log in again.
Others create pop-ups that are difficult or impossible to close, rendering the machine difficult or impossible to use.
Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan are reported as the top target destinations for the ransomware deployment. However, reports suggest fragmented cases across 150 countries have been recorded.
While India has been lucky enough to have only a few isolated WannaCry cases recorded, it has been a good wake-up call to the officials to take deeper interest and action to secure India’s digital databases and portals which include the banking system and Aadhar as lucrative targets.
What can you do to avoid being the victim?
- If you use windows XP, 8 or 10 or server 2003, it is highly recommended for you to download the security patch recently released by Microsoft.
- Install and use an updated antivirus like Microsoft Security Essentials.
- Disable pop-ups via pop-up blocker in your browser.
- Avoid clicking unfamiliar links and attachments.
- Most importantly, as you can never be too safe, regularly backup your crucial data.