What Happened During The WannaCry Ransomware Attack?

Friday, May 12, 2017, marked the day of one of the biggest global cyberattacks every to have happened. Almost every country in the world was affected by WannaCry, a type of ransomware. One of the hardest-hit countries was the United Kingdom, where the computer systems of the NHS (National Health Service) all went down.

Surprisingly, it transpired that the NHS continued to run their systems on Windows XP, an operating system known to be particularly vulnerable as its last security update was released in April 2014. Because of this, there are still concerns about a new similar attack, since other businesses do also still use Windows XP. To combat this, Microsoft created an emergency Windows XP patch, which can be accessed for free on May 13, 2017. They also found that both Windows Vista and Windows 8.1 were vulnerable to WannaCry, so a patch for these operating systems was released on May 14, 2017.

Which Systems Were Not Affected?

WannaCry targeted Windows operating systems only. A lot of people had concerns about the potential for their web hosting company to become infected and, by definition, therefore, also their own website. However, most hosts, including PAC Web Hosting, run on Linux. As a result, the majority of hosting systems were left untouched. Those people and organizations that had automatic updates turned on were also left unharmed.

How to Avoid a Ransomware Attack

The ransomware attack brought about something very positive, namely that people became more concerned about their online safety again. The WannaCry security response was global, educating businesses and individuals on the need for patching and updating their current systems. Indeed, having an up to date system is the only way to be protected from the next attack. The vast majority of programs are now set up in such a way that you can tell them to update automatically, and this option should always be turned on.

Besides automatically updating all security programs on a computer, it is equally important to be proactive in different ways. This includes making regular backups of all data, storing it off-site, such as on the cloud. This ensures that, should you get infected, you don’t have to pay the $300+ to have the ransomware removed.

One of the greatest problems is that businesses want to be connected all the time to conduct their business. This is a good thing and has been facilitated by the availability of the internet. But this is also what has increased vulnerability. The reality is also that these attacks won’t stop existing and are probably going to get worse. A hearing about the attack will be held soon to determine what lessons can be learned and how to avoid a future attack of this. To do this, there must be a joined coalition between operating system developers, web hosts, businesses, individuals, and website owners, in which they are all committed to keeping their devices, and the internet as a whole, as safe as possible.

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