WannaCry Ransomware attack exposes the gaps in the global cyber security systems

The WannaCry Ransomware cyber attack has hit over 100 countries across the globe, shutting down thousands of Microsoft computer systems of private and public companies and majorly impacting their work. The massive attack is a testimony to the fact that the world is not cyber-secure. It poses a serious question to the existing security system and is alarming the world about the threat that is looming over all of us. With cyber security breaches becoming widespread, hackers are gaining more power with every passing day.

The Ransomware cyber attack is caused by a virus called Ransomware that locks the computer and encrypts the documents or files present in it. It gives back access of the files, to the victim, after being paid the ransom. The cyber criminals demand money in the form of bitcoins, the online cryptocurrency. The Wanna Decryptor, commonly known as WannaCry is a type of ransomware program that blocks all the information present on the computer, with only two files remaining – Instructions on what is to be done next and the WannaCry decryptor program. On opening it, users are informed that their files have been blocked. After this, they are given some days to pay and restore access to their files, with a warning that the data will be deleted, in the case of failure to make payment.

The National Security Agency suspects that Ransomware was injected into the computers by hackers, by exploiting a glitch in the Microsoft software to get full control of the computer systems. Till now, cyber attackers have made around $50,000 as bitcoin from those affected. Marcus Hutchins, a British computer maven, accidentally found the solution to control the attack from spreading, while he was examining a sample of the malignant worm. But the cyber crime is continuing to spread its maliciousness. Healthcare and telecommunication companies are the worst affected by this deadly attack especially in countries like UK, US, China, Egypt, Spain, India, to name a few, with UK and Europe, being badly hurt, according to Malware Hunter Team. England’s National Health Service was critically hit by the attack, due to which staff couldn’t operate their computers, putting the lives of patients at stake. Telefonica, one of the leading telecommunication firms based out of Spain was severely poisoned with the lethal virus.

Paralyzing over 45000 computers globally, the Ransomware attack is the worst of its kind as it has brought the world to a standstill. With hackers turning more professional and fearless, there is a sea change in how they work now. WannaCry has made it quite obvious that unlike before, hackers now target all the information rather than restricting themselves to some specific data. This enlarges the gamut of data being hacked and surges the probability of gaining access to important files.

Companies can ward off such cyber attacks by keeping a carefully-crafted response plan in place. Research has shown that 40% of international organizations faced cyber attacks in the previous year. This shows the prevalence of such cyber crimes and the pressing need to keep a cover ready in such times.

Hacks to keep the computer safe and sound in a cyber attack:

  • Keep the operating system updated
  • Use the latest anti-virus software from a trusted company
  • Watch out for suspicious emails that ask to click on a certain link or download attachments.
  • Keep a backup ready of important files in an external drive

The world is not new to Ransomware attacks, as they have happened before as well. But this time, it was on a larger scale. According to a research conducted by Crypsis Group, these cyber criminals usually demand ransoms ranging from 1 Bitcoin to 30 bitcoins I.e. $1700 to $51000, approximately. It also confirmed that the median ransom asked for is 4 bitcoin that is equivalent to $7000.

The sole purpose of Ransomware attacks is to extort cash from the affected entities. With fear of losing confidential information, victims are more likely to shell out money to get their files back. According to Fortinet’s report of 2016, one in four companies that gave in to the demands of the cyber-extortionists lost their money and could never regain access to their data. Rather than paying money, it’s recommended to consult cyber security agencies to gain control of the information.

According to a study by US security company SonicWall, Ransomware attacks have surged 167 times in 2016, as compared to 2015. Looking at the level of cyber security existing across the globe, it’s high time for companies to take the matter into their hands by investing in strong security mechanisms to insulate themselves and the world at large from any such malware invasions in the future.

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