Here’s what the WannaCry ransomeware does. It locks down all files on the affected computer. Each computer freeze could be fixed by paying a $300 ransom. It is still dangerous and active.
The virus was first discovered in April by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) when the tools to apply the ransomware was made public by a hacking group called Shadow Brokers. Microsoft immediately released a security patch.
Unfortunately many corporations do not automatically update their security systems. Why? This has been a serious problem for years. Many companies say one reason is Microsoft updates screw up their legacy software programs.
Another reason? Microsoft Windows 10 forces the updates. Older computers can disable updates and those with them and older systems shut them off for the reason quoted above. And by the way, Microsoft took the unusual step of developing a patch for those older computers.
Apple computers are not — at least so far — affected.
The European law enforcement agency Europol said the attack hit 150 countries and affected 200,000 computers. Among the victims: FedEx, Nissan and the United Kingdom’s National Health Service’s antiquated computer system.
Others hit Deutsche Bahn, the Russian Central Bank, Russian Railways, Russia’s Interior Ministry, Megafon and Telefonica.
So how do you protect yourself? Bitdefender — the cyber security firm — said do these five things:
1. Disable your computer's Server Message Block service.
2. Install Microsoft's patch.
3. Back up your data on an offline hard drive.
4. Install all Windows updates.
5. Use a reputable security software to prevent attacks in the future.
Again, no one knows who’s behind the attack. Some say North Korea is behind it and others say it’s rank amateurs because so far they’ve made just over $50,000.
Here’s the problem. Experts on this sort of thing say the virus is still active and the hackers are putting out new versions. Efforts are being made to counter them and eliminate the threat completely.