Yesterday a massive ransomware attack targeted computers in seventy-four countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Spain, France and India. The strain of ransomware used is called WannaCrypt and it was developed to take advantage of a Microsoft Windows Operating System flaw called EternalBlue which was made public by hackers of the National Security Agency. This ransomware is available in 28 languages.
This is a problem that should not have happened for many reasons. The particular Microsoft vulnerability that this ransomware exploits has been patched, but some companies, government agencies and individuals had not yet installed the patches when they had become available recently. In addition, many of the affected computers were using outdated Windows operating systems, such as Windows XP which are no longer regularly updated with new security patches. These older unsupported systems should not be used by anyone. Microsoft has taken the unprecedented step of providing security patches for these unsupported systems now in addition to its already issued security updates for presently supported Microsoft programs. Here is a link to an important memo from Microsoft with links to free security updates if you are still using one of those older operating systems.
This ransomware attack was primarily launched using phishing emails to lure unsuspecting people into clicking on links or downloading attachments tainted with the Wannacrypt ransomware. As I am constantly reminding you, never click on links or download attachments until you have confirmed that they are legitimate.
You also should update all of your electronic devices with the latest security updates and patches as soon as they become available, preferably automatically.
As for protecting yourself specifically from ransomware, you should back up all of your data in at least two different platforms, such as in the Cloud and on a portable hard drive. Companies and agencies which can afford to do this, should also use Whitelisting software which prevents the installation of any unauthorized computer software programs.
Unfortunately, this is not going to be the last time that you learn about this type of story.