Although a majority of the attacks targeted Taiwan, the Ukraine, and Russia, web security firm Avast has tracked more than 75,000 ransomware attacks in 99 countries.
Ransomware locks down all files on an infected computer and “asks” the user to pay a ransom in order to regain control over the files.
This particular variant which goes by the name “WannaCry” is spreading through a Windows exploitable vulnerability. Microsoft released a patch for this exploit back in March of this year, but any Windows system that has not applied the patch is at risk.
Kurt Baumgartner, a researcher for Kaspersky Lab has been quoted as saying, “Affected machines have six hours to pay up and every few hours the ransom goes up…Most folks that have paid up appear to have paid the initial $300 in the first few hours.” Kaspersky Lab has also cautioned that while non-patched computers are the most vulnerable, even patched systems can be at risk. What makes this malware even more diabolical is the inclusion of a “hunter module” allowing it to scan for additional systems on an internal network. This means that an infected computer could compromise other computers sharing the same network – the significance of this is great with the vast number of people who use WiFi networks at coffee shops, restaurants, airports and the like. The ransomware has even affected National Health Service (NHS) organizations in the UK and the Spanish telecom Telefónica.
The bottom line: While it may be an inconvenience, make sure you keep your computer systems patched will all of the most recent security updates and have virus protection turned on.
- Massive ransomware attack hits 99 countries – CNN.com, May 12, 2017
- Ransomware Attacks Ravage Computer Networks In Dozens Of Countries – NPR.org, May 12, 2017
- Hackers Hit Dozens of Countries Exploiting Stolen N.S.A. Tool – nytimes.com, May 12, 2017
- Not-remotely-subtle brute force ransomware attacks are on the rise – Healthcare IT News, May 12, 2017