Is Your Computer Security Up-to-Date?

On Friday, May 12 in what was to be the largest cyber-attack ever known, businesses in 150 companies came under attack, which in a 4-day period would claim at least 300,000 victims, including Britain’s National Health Service, which struggled to get hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices fully operational. The attack had caused some patients to be turned away from emergency rooms, and surgical procedures and medical appointments needed to be rescheduled.

The attack was a form of ransomware called WannaCry that gets into computers through phishing emails and demands payment in bitcoin for access to now-encrypted files

Ransomware – a malicious piece of software that locks files on a computer and demands payments to unlock them – is the name of the type of virus that infected the machines. Ransomware attacks have been on the rise and this particular malware known as WannaCry was called "unprecedented" by Europol.

The malware targets a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, which released a patch in March that fixes the security problem. But many hospitals apparently have not yet updated their systems.

Patch updates are becoming extremely important, because hackers are responding to critical bugs immediately.  And, healthcare organizations are high value targets, which means their security and IT teams need to be extremely aware of what is happening in the wild and respond accordingly.

Am I at risk?

The WannaCry ransomware affects machines running the Windows operating system. It was a security flaw that was originally exploited by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) which was then leaked earlier this year. Hackers are now using this themselves.

If you or your organization is running a version of Windows, you could be at risk.

What should I do to protect myself?

Authorities in the U.S. and U.K. have issued guidance on what to do.

Individuals and small businesses should:

Run Windows Update to get the latest software updates. Setting Windows auto-update function is a good idea.  Microsoft provides instructions for setting the auto-update function for various Window operating systems here

  • Make sure any anti-virus product is up to date and scan your computer for any malicious programs. It's also worth setting up regular auto-scans.
  • Back up important data on your computer in case it gets held for ransom.

Large organizations should:

  • Apply the latest Microsoft security patches for this particular flaw.
  • Back up key data.
  • Ensure all outgoing and incoming emails are scanned for malicious attachments.
  • Ensure anti-virus programs are up to date and conducting regular scans.
  • Educate employees on identifying scams, malicious links and emails that may contain viruses.
  • Make sure to run "penetration tests" against your network's security, no less than once a year, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

What if I've already been attacked?

  • Do not pay the ransom demanded by the WannaCry ransomware, cybersecurity firm Check Point warned in a blog post Sunday. The company said there is no evidence of the hackers giving people files back.
  • For individuals, it might be worth contacting local IT support services.
  • Businesses should contact law enforcement and provide as much information as possible.
  • Restore backups of data.

How can I prevent ransomware attacks?

There are also steps that can be taken to protect against ransomware more generally. These include:

  • Making sure anti-virus programs are up to date and updating all software.
  • Backup copies of data.
  • Scrutinize links and files contained in emails.
  • Only download software from trusted sources.

(Source: [5/15/2017] / Healthcare Dive [5/13/2017]))