Only you can help prevent ransomware.
So, you’re going to hear about this attack on 6 O’clock news, if you haven’t already. It’s not just NHS. It’s also Fed Ex, Telefonica, and 45,000 computers as of this afternoon. As of yesterday at this time, most people didn’t know it existed. The systems it’s hitting are out of date or improperly maintained, and it’s a problem. The malware (or virus, if you want to really simplify things) in question encrypts files that are stored on the computer, and the only people who can decrypt them are the same crime gang (yes, I’m calling them that) that wrote the virus. It’s simple, dirty, and extremely effective, and you can help prevent it. Yes, you. We don’t need security professionals or Cyber-defense-h4x0r-intervention elite teams, or whatever. We need you.
Here’s why: Information Security is a lot like public hygiene; if you all do your part to clean up your systems, prevent the spread of viruses like these, and run your damn updates, we see less of this happening.
If you think twice before opening that attachment, and make sure you’ve got some sort of antivirus running, we’re already off to a good start. Just so’s were clear here- keeping your computers and mobile devices up to date and patched is actually going to save lives, albeit indirectly. Do it. Do it now.
Just so we’re clear on this- the utility company, hospital, gas station and telephone company you used today probably still has systems that rely on outdated, poorly maintained versions of windows that are vulnerable to this attack. They *usually* know they’re doing this, and can’t find easy alternatives. If they’ve thought things through, they’ve got a plan to get rid of them, and a plan to secure them until they’re gone.
Unfortunately, changing these systems is a slow, hard process and often means millions of dollars on upgrades (especially for hospitals). It also means taking out critical (sometimes life-supporting) systems that often can’t be easily patched or upgraded without serious planning. It also means that your mobile phone, laptop, PDA (really? who uses those!?) IPad, LPad, Zbook or Apple Newton is at risk of infecting these systems because you haven’t run your updates.
So, just in case you’ve missed this message- update YOUR machines and run an antivirus. Sophos and others are giving away free ones because this IS a public hygiene issue, and you’re part of the best way to solve it.