Massive cyberattack made us 'WannaCry'

May 22, 2017
by Mark Ollig

An email from what appears to be a legitimate source requests you to click the enclosed file attachment for more information.

Somewhat hesitantly, you click the attachment.

Once the attachment file opens and executes its program, you sense something strange happening with your computer.

Your computer has just been infected with a malicious ransomware virus.

Ransomware is a type of software which, after infecting a computer, restricts the owner/user from accessing its files until a ransom is paid to obtain the key required for unlocking the encrypted files.

The ransomware program then takes you to a webpage with this ominous message appearing on your display screen:

“Your documents, photos, databases and other important files have been encrypted with the strongest encryption and a unique key code generated for this computer. This private decryption key is stored on a secret Internet server, and nobody can decrypt your files until you pay the full amount asked.”

Oh, it gets worse, folks.

“You only have 24 hours to submit payment. If you do not send the money within the provided time, all your files will be permanently crypted and no one will be able to recover them.”

At this point, you are presented with the list of all your personal files from your computer the ransomware attackers are holding hostage.

Lastly, you are instructed to click the dollar icon to pay a ransom in the amount of hundreds – if not thousands of dollars (or bitcoins) in order to get your personal files back.

You silently sit in your computer chair after reading these messages and feel a sickening nauseousness in the pit of your stomach.

Understandably, some folks would “wanna cry,” which happens to be one of the names for this particular ransomware software virus.

WannaCrypt Ransomware; also known as: WannaCry, WanaCrypt0r, or Wcrypt is the source of a recent global computer, ransomware cyber-attack.

It infected some 250,000 computing systems in over 150 countries.

WannaCry is an illegally obtained software program originally kept by our country’s National Security Agency, and called EternalBlue.

EternalBlue remotely invades and takes control of a Microsoft Windows operating system.

The Department of Homeland Security has been involved with monitoring and issuing warnings regarding the WannaCry ransomware virus, and offers advice on its website: https://www.dhs.gov.

“We aim to secure the federal civilian networks, cyberspace and critical infrastructure that are essential to our lives and work,” reads a statement on The Department of Homeland Security website.

Perhaps the Department of Homeland Security needs to have a meeting with the folks at the National Security Agency.

Being a victim of an email “phishing” scheme occurs when what you believe to be an email from a reputable source, turns out to be fraudulently sent by unscrupulous sources in order to obtain your private information; such as credit card, social security, or bank account numbers.

Ransomware such as WannaCry can also be hidden as a cleverly disguised email attachment.

Never click on hyperlinks or file attachments in an email if you are unsure of the emails’ legitimacy.

Protect your email accounts by using secure passwords. Avoid using common words, phrases, or personal information, and update your passwords regularly.

If you are asked to provide personal information via email, you can independently contact the company by phone to verify the request.

Be cautious when seeing a “click here” link for confirming information.

Everyone needs to be attentive when it comes to email attachments and web links:

• Do you know who sent you the email? An unknown sender or unfamiliar internet domain address could indicate a malicious email.

• Don’t be in a rush when opening email attachments saying “time sensitive” or labeled “final notice statement.”

• Check the actual originating web link address name by hovering your cursor over the link inside the email message before clicking it.

• Poor spelling and bad grammar in an email are sometimes signs of a phishing attempt.

• Check for suspicious file attachments. Malicious email attachments sometimes use randomly-named .pdf, .doc, .jpg, .txt, or .exe file extensions.

• Be cautious of emails from unknown senders instructing you to “click this link for turning off automatically downloaded email attachments.”

If you question opening an email attachment or clicking an enclosed link, do what I do . . .delete the entire email.

We also need to be careful with Instant Messages sent to our smartdevices containing web links or attachments.

Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 software security patch: KB4012598, for the WannaCrypt/WannaCry ransomware program from Microsoft is available here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/KB4012598.

Keep your computer’s Microsoft operating system (OS), web browser, anti-virus, and other critical software up to date, and activate your OS for auto-patching and auto-updates.

By observing email safety precautions and following this sage advice, “consider the source,” we won’t WannaCry later.

Keep smiling by reading my Twitter messages at @bitsandbytes.

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