A leaked cyber weapon created by the NSA to be use for espionage in the form of a Windows virus is believed to have been acquired by hackers in an attempt to launch a crippling cyber attack on computer systems across the globe.
The virus labelled “WannaCry” locks users out of their computers and files and asks for a digital ransom of $300 dollars before control is safely returned to the user.
Ransomware attacks are nothing new in this digital age, but the speed and scope of this recent virus infection has alarmed many security experts.
So on Friday past, a massive ransomware virus attack spread to the computer systems of thousands of private companies and public organisations across the globe (though it looks like damage here in Canada has been minimal) and so like you mentioned this virus locks computer users out of their systems and renders it useless until they pay a digital ransom.
The scope of this virus is quite alarming. It looks like in a few hours, this malware had already infected victims in at least 74 countries, including Russia, Turkey, Germany, Vietnam, and the Philippines – and is thought to be spreading at a rate of five million emails per hour.
So, ransomware is a malicious software program that criminals often use to attack and gain control of a computer system. When infected, hackers often demand the victim to pay ransom money in order to re-gain access to their files .
The method of infection varies for most viruses, but ransomware is typically sent out via email and packaged with installation files masquerading as official software updates for common programs you have installed on your computer. When you open the attached file in your email, typically, a popup window opens telling you that you need to update a program on your computer. Clicking next or ok or install will then install the ransomware virus onto your computer. If your computer is part of a network at a business or company then this virus can spread very quickly to all others once its initially installed on one computer.
In the case of this ransomware virus called Wanna Decryptor or ‘WannaCry’ Virus, a window will pop-up covering your screen stating that you have been infected and that all of the data on that computer is held hostage and will be destroyed or deleted if you don’t click on the link on the screen and pay a ransom.
So, its important to keep in mind that it is possible to remove the virus from your computer but when WannaCry takes over your computer, it creates encrypted copies of your files and deletes the originals that are on your computer. That means that all of your documents, images, and videos, if they are not backed up somewhere else are gone. Now, the main window that pops up for this virus gives your links to pay the hackers about US$600 to get your files back. Most of the time if you do pay the ransom money you still don’t get back your files and then you are out your money as well. So, if you do get infected, chances are very slim you will ever get any of your files back.
That said, if you have your files in another safe place you can remove this virus from your computer through a number of different methods. One way is using the system restore option in Widows, also some anti-virus software can remove it and finally there are specific tools offered online to do the task. Now, if you decide to Google “WannaCry” removal tool proceed with caution. — just like you’re not supposed to trust emails from strangers, the same goes for strange websites. Some tools online offer your to pay for the tool, others probably won’t work and finally many removal tools are bound to contain viruses of their own.
Firstly, make sure you keep your operating system (in this case Windows) updated. Almost as soon as this virus was detected, Microsoft released an update to all Windows users worldwide. Even people using Windows XP, a much older operating system which has been expired and getting no updates for years was issued an update. And so having this update will keep you protected from this virus..
Secondly, having antivirus software installed and updated on your windows computer is important and can help as well.
Thirdly, you want to be very careful of links and attachments sent to you in your email, even from people you know. Resist the urge to click on every link that catches your attention.
Finally, you want to make sure you have some type of backup plan. Many people these days are using online backups services like Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud drive, Microsoft’s OneDrive or Dropbox. Having a second copy of all of your pictures, videos, and files in the cloud can possibility save you from disaster.