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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

WannaCry: 5-way to protect your devices

With the world reeling from the WannaCrypt attack –  an ongoing cyber-attack of the WannaCry ransomware computer worm targeting the Microsoft Windows operating system – fears are rife that the viral attack may soon spread to Nigeria, with dire implications for individuals and businesses whose devices are compromised.

Described as unprecedented in scale, the attack which started on Friday May 12 2017 has infected more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries, with the software demanding ransom payments in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in 28 languages.

In this piece, the Research/Development Unit of Yudala – Nigeria’s fastest growing composite e-commerce outfit – shares five ways to stay ahead of the WannaCry attack which has been likened to a ‘pandemic’.

1.Update Windows as a matter of urgency: The world heaved a brief sigh of relief when the WannaCry ransomware was halted in its deadly tracks by a security analyst who discovered a kill switch in its code last week. Sadly, the ransomware has been updated without the kill switch, allowing it to spread. Apart from businesses, institutions and governments; individuals are equally at risk of this viral attack as WannaCry targets a Windows operating system flaw in older versions that have not been patched. If your system runs on one of the newer versions of Windows and you have kept up with automatic updates, you can protect yourself by updating your computer immediately with the software patch released in March 2017.

2.Invest in a ransomware blocker: The WannaCry attack is indeed an eye-opener to the growing global scourge of Ransomware – described in an earlier research piece as an increasingly popular mode of attack where attackers encrypt data taken from the victim and in return for decrypting the data, they ask for an acceptable amount from the victim as ransom. These victims include individuals, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large corporates.

Most anti-virus software hardly offers any protection against ransomware, especially if you are using the outdated version of the anti-virus. In view of the increasing prevalence of these attacks and if your checks reveal you are not protected, perhaps now is the time to consider investing in a dedicated ransomware blocker. Before purchasing one, please check out the features and cost. There are also a few free options you can download and install at no cost.

3.Turn Windows Update on if currently disabled
Most users can be forgiven for disabling Microsoft Windows’ automatic updates. This is especially considering the annoying tendency for earlier versions to auto-install even when one is in the middle of a pressing work schedule or tight deadline. Thankfully, Microsoft has, to a large extent, fixed that issue with the current version of Windows 10. So, if you currently have automatic updates disabled, please go back to your Control Panel to turn them back on and leave them on.

4. Stay alert for new strains/mutations
According to research from Heimdal Security, new strains or mutations of the WannaCry ransomware have popped up, with some bearing the name Uiwix. Also, the virulence of the ransomware can be seen from the way it rebounded from the initial attempt to deploy its kill switch. This clearly shows the need to remain on the alert for new strains or mutations. Suspicious links in emails and on websites should be regarded with caution to avoid becoming a victim.

5.Consider cloud storage and file back-ups

In view of the likelihood of falling prey, there seems no better time to consider cloud storage and other forms of back-ups for your sensitive files and other information. Cloud storage is particularly useful because in the event of an attack, you may be able to recover your affected files by accessing earlier versions of them. Some effective cloud-storage services keep snapshots of all changes made to files in the past 30 days. 

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