Friday, a new ransomware virus called “WannaCry” infected the systems of over 100,000 organizations in over 100 countries. Britain’s National Health Service was affected to the point that this preventable virus might have caused deaths! Russia’s Interior Ministry, Spain’s Telefonica, FedEx Corp. in the U.S., and French car maker Renault all were affected. Sure, this skullduggery makes us in the technology business mad at a personal level, but what really makes us want to cry is that our warnings aren’t being heeded. This is all preventable! There couldn’t be a better example of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure:
- Daily backups – If a system is infected with ransomware, there are really only two options: restore from the most recent backup or pay the ransom ($300 in this case) and hope they don’t leave something behind to come back for more.
- Avoid Obsolescence – Windows XP hasn’t been supported with security updates by Microsoft for over 3 years. As with the most visible organization involved, Britain’s National Health Service, many of those infected are still using Windows XP. No company can afford to fall so far behind with their technology – don’t assume a life span of more than 5 years for computer systems. Our clients can visit our obsolescence page for a summary of important support dates for commonly used software and equipment.
- Maintain Updates – Microsoft released a patch to prevent this vulnerability two months ago! Automatic updates should be turned on for all systems so updates are applied when available. If not automated, a weekly update would have prevented this.
- Make sure you have up-to-date virus protection. This requires not just having virus protection software installed, but keeping it up-to-date.
- Implement Safe Internet Practices. This is a prime example of why PCI regulations don’t allow emails or open Internet browsers at Point of Sale. However, all users must be careful not to click on suspicious links or emails. Attachments should never be opened unless you know what is attached.
“WannaCry” is just the latest ransomware attack as we’ve reported here and here. There have been many others and more are sure to follow. What’s interesting about this virus is that it could have been prevented by any of these companies. Even more interesting is the LA Times report that the vulnerability was discovered by the National Security Administration and stolen by hackers. Microsoft is calling for a “Digital Geneva Convention” in hopes that international cooperation can be garnered so that spy agencies report vulnerabilities to the manufacturers instead of using them for exploitation.
If you didn’t get infected, take the time to pat your IT team on the back for preventing this. Whether infected or not, don’t wait another moment to review your data security policies to make sure systems are up to date, properly backed up, and your staff understands and follows proper security practices.