PC Security – WannaCry

The latest virus to hit the headlines shocked the PC world last week. WannaCry, which started to sweep round the globe last Friday and so far has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 nations.

What is it?

Also known as Wanna Decryptor or wcry its modus operandi is to infect PCs and threaten to lock out and delete files of victims who do not pay a sum of $300 to $600 (£230 to £460) within one week of infection. Small businesses are constantly being urged to take precautionary measures to protect their businesses online. It is similar to Cryptolocker of a few years ago.

How is it installed?

The virus is usually invisibly installed on to computers by being hidden within deceptive-looking emails containing links, which users are tricked into opening. Once opened, the malware can install on to a system without the user’s knowledge.

What does it do?

Once opened, the virus is able to encrypt files and block user access to them, displaying a pop-up window on-screen telling users they have been blocked, and demanding payment – often via a digital currency such as Bitcoin.

Can you remove it without paying?

Yes, by using advanced anti-malware software. The malware can also be removed manually with a computer in “safe mode”, but this isn’t a ‘user’ technique as important system files need to be edited in order to find and isolate files created by the Wanna Decryptor software. Disinfection opportunities are reduced if the system is rebooted, so if an infection is suspected, power-down and contact an expert.

The harm of this latest attack is the ease and speed with which it spread, and the vulnerable systems that it exploited. Many NHS systems received the greatest publicity, as they were using old systems, not because of ‘budget cuts’, but because the older systems that they supported were still within useful life. Microsoft had issued a patch well in advance of widespread infection, but unfortunately many systems administrators had failed to implement this.

Businesses and individuals should make sure their internet security is up to date and in use, view emails with attachments sent from unknown senders with suspicion, avoid storing passwords on computers and make sure that backups are in place.

Get Safe Online, offers free expert advice on online security matters and they have created a great detailed post on how to protect your computer , finances and your identity against this new global online threat.

Online phishing attacks have become more and more common over the past five years as more businesses have moved online, and it presents dangers for consumers and opportunities for criminals. That is why today it is vital that businesses understand such risks.

We also recommend the use of a Password Manager such as LastPass to generate and encrypt complex passwords