A Pakistani's Guide To The World’s Biggest Cyber-Attack That’s Happening Right Now And How To Stay Safe From It

By Ather Ahmed | 17 May, 2017

So in case you didn’t notice, a major cyber attack known as WannaCry took place a few days ago. Dozens of companies, hospitals and even government agencies across the globe were targeted.

 

WannaCry is basically a ransomware computer virus that halts access and transfer of data until a certain ransom amount is paid.

Source: Deenga

 

Around 200,000 computers across more than 100 countries were hit with India being affected the worst.

 

What is a ransomware attack?

A ransomware infects a computer much like a traditional Malware. Don’t get a word I am sayin? Let me break it down in more simpler terms.

This type of virus usually infects the computer through links and attachments sent in emails. These emails lure the user into opening the links or attachments that contain the malicious software. At times they direct the users to fake website that asks for sensitive personal data.

Once the virus has made its way into the computer it blocks access to all data. Instead screen pops up wherein the user is instructed to pay money.

The price usually increases with time with a corresponding countdown.

 

Your files are destroyed if the ransom amount isn’t paid on time. Sounds scary right?

The only way is to secure your data is to not open such attachments in emails where you cant verify the sender. So do not open any email claiming that you have won US citizenship in lottery you never even participated in. Yea I know its tempting but no one is that lucky.

 

Once your computer is infected there is no way to secure access to the data except of paying the ones holding it hostage.

Mac users can chill however since WannaCry only attacks Windows operating system.

 

The movie business also fell victim to this attack.

According to a recent story published on the Hollywood Reporter Hackers have also threatened to release an upcoming Disney film on the internet if the studio doesn’t pay a heavy ransom in bitcoin. The movie in question is Pirates of The Caribbean 5.

Source: Disney

This is not the first time Hollywood has had to deal with a high profile cyber attack. Just two years back a hacker group stole confidential data from Sony Pictures. The hackers that were allegedly backed by the North Korean government threatened to release the data unless Sony pulled the plug on the release of The Interview. In case you couldn’t spot the connection ,The Interview was a comic telling of a fictional assassination attempt of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Source: Point Grey Pictures / LStar Capital

 

Interestingly enough a theory is circulating that WannaCry was also sponsored by the North Koreans.

A Google researcher Neal Mehta has pointed out striking similarities between this attack and the one that happened in 2014.

 

What can you do to stay safe from this attack?

While Pakistan has surprisingly not been affected that crazily yet, it’s good to take some precautionary measures so you don’t get affected by such things in the future.

According to Washington Post, this attack is particularly targeting Windows based devices, especially those that are still running Windows XP. Apple computers and Android devices appear not to be affected by WannaCry, but that does not mean that Macs or iPhones are immune to malware in general. Androids, especially, are susceptible if they’re running an older version of the Operating System.

So the first thing you need to do is, make your device software and operating systems are UP TO DATE.

Also, here’s what Washington Post suggests you can do to protect yourself:

In addition, you can:

  • Create backups of your most important files, either by downloading them to an external hard drive or by storing them in a cloud-based storage service.
  • Use a password manager to create and keep track of unique, hard-to-remember (and thus hard-to-break) passwords for each of your services. It’s a little counter-intuitive, but experts say it’s much more secure than the alternative, which is reusing the same password across multiple websites.
  • Check your medical and credit reports for evidence of fraudulent activity.
  • At work, check with your IT administrator to make sure your organization’s devices are protected from WannaCry.
  • Remember to treat unexpected emails with caution, and read up on phishing — one of the most common types of social engineering attacks used by attackers to compromise machines.

“Ransomware is following the same trajectory as phishing,” said Phillip Hallam-Baker, an expert at the digital security firm Comodo. “The criminals have worked out how to monetize the crime, and they know which types of businesses are likely to pay up — and how to collect the money without being caught.”

 

The attack seems to have subsided, for now, but there are reports that new versions are being made that are going to be that much harder to control and stop. So be very, very careful and protect yourself because you don’t want to be taken hostage and your freedom on the internet be taken away from you, by ANYONE.

 


Cover image via:  KobizMedia/ Korea Bizwire

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