WannaCry cyberattack: For Microsoft users, here’s how to protect your data

WannaCry ransomware has affected 300,000 computers globally, and here's how Microsoft users can protect their PCs

By: Tech Desk | Updated: May 18, 2017 3:43 pm
WannaCry, Microsoft WannaCry attack, Microsoft EternalBlue, WannaCry ransomware attack, WannaCry ransomware, WannaCry cyberattack, Microsoft security update, How to avoid ransomware WannaCry ransomware has affected 300,000 computers globally, and Microsoft users are most vulnerable, unless they carry out security updates (Source: AP)

The global ransomware cyberattack, known as WannaCry or WannaCrypt has infected over 300,000 computers. The vulnerability, which is being used to carry out the attack,  affects computers running Microsoft’s Windows OS, though the company had issued a patch to fix this on March 14. Now some are blaming Microsoft for this ransomware attack, and not following up on security measures.

It should be noted the WannaCry ransomware, which exploits the EternalBlue vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows OS, doesn’t impact devices running on Linux or Apple’s MacOS.  Essentially if you’re running a Windows OS version lower than Windows 10, you’re at a higher risk.

Window XP, Windows Vista users are particularly at risk because some of these users might not have licensed version of the software, or might not have updated their computer.

First, for those who don’t know WannaCry is a ransomware that affects the entire network, and will encrypt all files in a computer. In order to decrypt the files, a user has to pay a ransom of $300 worth in bitcoins, and there is a deadline within which this has to be paid.

So what should a Microsoft Windows user do in order to protect their computer against the WannaCry ransomware attack? Here’s a quick look.

Read more: WannaCry ransomware: Shadow Brokers group warns of more data dump

Windows Vista 7, 8.1 & 10 users

Microsoft in an email to consumers wrote it had released the security update, which addresses the vulnerability that WannaCry is exploiting. If you have been regularly updating your Windows OS, then you are protected against WannaCry for now.

Microsoft says all organizations using any version of their OS need to deploy Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010 immediately. This is not to be ignored, because clearly hackers have tools to exploit this security vulnerability, and could carry out a different attack later on.

Activate Windows Defender

Microsoft has also release an update for its Windows Defender program, which can detect the WannaCry ransomware threat. This threat is detected as “Ransom:Win32/WannaCrypt.” Microsoft is also telling customers to update all their anti-malware, virus protection software.

Also read: WannaCry ransomware: Who is responsible for this, full impact of cyberattack

Windows XP, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2003 users

Microsoft has release a security update patch for customers, who are running these versions. Remember Microsoft had stopped supporting these version of Windows, but it has issued a rare security patch to fight against the WannaCry ransomware attack.

Blocking Legacy protocols

Microsoft says the attack may evolve over time, and customers should consider blocking legacy protocols on their network. In case of WannaCry, it is relying on some common phishing tactics as well, and you might get a mail with a malicious attachment. Microsoft says customers should exercise caution when opening mails from unknown persons.

So what next? 

Experts fear the WannaCry cyberattack is just the beginning. The attack is believed to have been carried out using tools that were stolen from the US security agency NSA, which had been stockpiling on a number of vulnerabilities around Windows OS, MacOS, etc.

Now the group which stole these hacking weapons is called Shadow Brokers, and they are promising more chaos by releasing more of these tools to criminals.  Banking systems could be at risk in the future. Users might not be able to do much here.

Also if zero-day exploits are leaked to hackers, and they carry out attacks using these, even the latest update won’t help. Zero-day exploits are vulnerabilities, which even the companies have not discovered yet. According to some reports, vulnerabilities in Windows 10 could be leaked next, which might cause more problems.

For users, the best thing to do is take a backup for all data, which should include a copy that isn’t just online, but also stored offline. Also it is best to keep all software updated, run only licensed version of any OS.

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