Still running Windows XP? Here's what to do about WannaCrypt ransomware

Still running Windows XP? Here's what to do about WannaCrypt ransomware

In fact, a victim of a previous Ransomware attack told us that the hackers kept asking for more money once he paid, until he eventually stopped and lost all of his data and also cash. Describing how exactly the malicious software is developed, IT professional Felicio Fernandes says: "Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that takes a computer hostage and holds it for ransom".

"The operating systems on our computers and software downloads are managed centrally so that regular users can not download executable files from the internet without administrative rights", he said in an email. In addition, Microsoft also took the very unique step of recently releasing security updates to address the vulnerability for Windows XP and Server 2003, even though they are both years past their Extended Support lifetimes.

With the world still getting to grips with the unprecedented global cyber attacks through the WannaCry ransomware, the group that made such an attack possible has promised that it would soon be making tools available, which could lead to similar attacks in the future. Unfortunately, a lot more people are going to have to learn the hard way.

The hack used a technique purportedly stolen from the US National Security Agency to target Microsoft's market-leading Windows operating system. Health care providers in Britain's NHS, for example, were forced to turn ambulances away and cancel or delay cancer treatments for patients over the weekend, though officials say 80 percent of the NHS's systems were unaffected and that the disruption is easing.

"The high price highlights the quandary the world's biggest software company faces as it tries to force customers to move to newer and more secure software", it said.

This is a great worry for many companies.

To complicate matters further, criminals who use ransomware often ask to be paid in Bitcoin or other forms of cryptocurrencies so that payments by victims can not be traced by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The tech industry writ large opposes efforts by the government to weaken the security of its products, while national security advocates say it could help combat terrorism.

Still, "My answer is, never pay the ransom", Abrams said.

The interesting thing about the WannaCry ransomware is that it mostly hit large organisations with legacy networks - and they will often not pay ransoms as they have backups or run their data from a central server. We'll get to some tips in a minute.

According to the FT, the cost of updating older Windows versions "went from $200 per device in 2014, when regular support for XP ended, to $400 the following year", while some clients were asked to pay heftier fees. Linux, Mac or any unix based OS are not affected.

It's unclear who the attackers are, but we do somewhat know about the origins of the ransomware.

The good news is that Javelin's software was able to prevent the spread of WannaCry on their customers' computers, right out of the gate, explained Abutbul. (These are the most important patches that the company recommends users install immediately). Microsoft, however, had already issued a software update the month before; those that downloaded and installed the patch were protected from WannaCry, but many others lagged behind and became victims.

"An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", Smith wrote.

It also caused a public statement from Microsoft attacking the United States government for stockpiling software exploits, arguing: "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen".

How can I protect myself?

Microsoft released a patch to fix the exploit in March.

Make sure you regularly back up your data. The virus has also impacted computers running Windows Vista and Windows 7 whose owners had blocked the security updates.