If you have paid attention to the news, you know the world is in a cyber war firefight running from Friday to today. No one is going to protect you. To make it worse, some are claiming anti-virus software is making it worse. Sheesh!
The current primary problem is older operating systems; Windows XP and Vista. Microsoft quit supporting those old systems. But, many businesses have chosen not to update to newer systems. For some like the healthcare industry and industrial manufacturing their complex applications were dependent on features in the old operating systems. It was difficult and expensive to update.
There are the home users that can’t afford to update or see no reason to update. I suspect many corporate managers in the health and industry companies also saw no reason to update. They were asking what they would get. The answer was new system would be a bit faster and safer. Well, things were working and it is challenging to figure out how much a ‘bit faster’ will reduce a company’s labor cost.
Then there was there question what is it they needed to be protected from? Why bother with updates that sometimes took an office down? Anti-virus software seemed to be protecting and several brands promised those on discontinued-support systems protection. Now they know what the danger is. But, it is a bit late.
Whatever the reasons for not updating, hundreds of thousands of computers are unprotected and falling in this fight. The fallen in a way turn into to zombies and help spread the attack. So, one has to consider if their social-justice ideology places a duty to keep computers updated… Or if you’re a responsible person, you take care of yourself first so you can take care of others.
How do you catch the ransomware ‘virus’? Click in an email Link or on a link in a web site or being on a network where someone does. Links are well disguised. So, there is no way to tell you what NOT to click on. Disconnection from the network is probably not an option but, it works perfectly. If you are on XP or Vista, you may want to disconnect for a few days.
Various companies are working to build a decryption tool for the latest round of ransomware. So, paying the hackers is hopefully not going to be your only option. Advice on paying is mixed. Universities and healthcare facilities have been paying via bitcoin or other untraceable digital currency. For home users prices are in the US$300 range and at day 3 jumps to $600.
There is no guarantee they will send you an unlock key. There is a good chance they will rip-off your bank account if you pay them via a direct payment.
Plus, there isn’t just one ransomware hack. They all are very similar making it difficult to know which one you have. There are some scam knockoffs that are taking advantage of the confusion and panic to cash in.
Some just require you close the web page, others the browser. It can be hard to do that, persist. Often restarting the computer clears the problem, provided it is one of the fake versions. Fake, fake, everywhere a fake…
How to avoid ransomware? Don’t click on ads in web pages. Don’t click on links in emails that you have any question about. Don’t even open emails that you are not expecting. Advertising and porn emails can be especially deadly. Disconnect older machines from the web and local networks.
Most effectively: run a newer operating system and keep it updated. Become a network refugee…
The bad guys are targeting us… and our governments are not necessarily the good guys. Microsoft is blaming NSA for the firefight. NSA and the White House is saying no. A WikiLeaks release and this ransomware strike are coincidentally in the same time frame. But, while concurrency suggest one consider such a possibility, it isn’t proof.
There are patches coming out to stop the spread.
Protecting yourself is your responsibility.