Running Windows? How to protect against the big ransomware attack

75,000 ransomware attacks hit 99 countries on Friday

75,000 ransomware attacks hit 99 countries on Friday

"WannaCry" (also called "WannaCrypt) refers to ransomware that has been spreading wildly since last Friday".

Microsoft distributed a patch two months ago that could have forestalled much of the attack, but in many organizations it was likely lost among the blizzard of updates and patches that large corporations and governments strain to manage.

"With the right approach, it won't be something that people will have to worry about", Microsoft's founder Bill Gates said of cyber attacks back in October on the BBC.

The head of Britain's National Cyber Security Centre echoed the warning, raising concerns that many existing infections may yet to have been detected, and others could spread within networks.

WannaCry is a type of ransomware - a computer virus that locks down a computer and allows access only once a ransom is paid to the hacker. In Asia, hundreds of thousands of new victims of the global cyberattack were announced.

Usually the payment is made in the form of Bitcoins.

Many experts observed that companies often refrained from performing upgrades. But even if you connect make sure that you choose an option in Windows that say you're connecting to a public WiFi network. "For information on how to mitigate this vulnerability, users and administrators are encouraged to review the US-CERT article on Microsoft SMBv1 Vulnerability and the Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010".

The software giant compared the severity of the attack with "the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen".

They exploited a ideal storm of factors — the Windows hole, the ability to get ransom paid in digital currency, poor security practices — but it's unclear if the payoff, at least so far, was worth the trouble. The cyber criminals have demanded a fee of about $300 in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin for unlocking the device.

Australian officials said so far only three small-to-medium sized businesses had reported being locked out of their systems while New Zealand's ministry of business said a small number of unconfirmed incidents were being investigated.

Friday's ransomware outbreak, which used recently revealed weaknesses in Microsoft's Windows operating system to spread further and faster than any before, has prompted the Redmond-based developer to break its own rules on software maintenance in an effort to keep users safe.

Smith said that Microsoft proposed in February a new "Digital Geneva Convention" that would include a new requirement for governments to report software vulnerabilities to vendors, rather than stockpile, sell or exploit them. "This is an emerging pattern in 2017".

Microsoft references the source of WannaCry ransomware's as vulnerability referred to as the NSA, featuring similar security holes to be revealed on WikiLeaks in the documents stolen from the Central Intelligence Agency. Some cybersecurity experts are wondering if the vulnerability exposed with the leaked US government documents could be part of the attraction. "An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the USA military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen", wrote Brad Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer.

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