Several news outlets around the world have reported over the weekend that there is a new wave of worldwide cyber attacks happening right now. Whilst in the UK the National Health Service has been forced to cancel operations within its hospitals after computers used to share patients’ test results, and scans with doctors remain frozen, Australia appears to have missed the worst of it. Even so, small businesses are still at risk of being infected by the WCry ransomware.
The ransomware locks down computers it has infected and has been demanding payments of between $400 to $900 to restore access.
So far the massive cyber attack, which emerged on Friday, has hit about 200,000 people and businesses in at least 150 countries.
Initial reports said just one Australian business had been impacted, but Cyber Security Minister Dan Tehan confirmed in an interview with ABC this morning that two further businesses were also hit, and there were concerns of more disruption as workers switch on their computers this morning.
Professionals in the field advise that the first thing you should do when getting into work on Monday is to update your Microsoft software and any other protection software you might have installed. If you are on a Computer Maintenance Service Agreement with Advanced Technology, our monitoring software will have initiated this for you over the weekend already. If you are not, it is best to get the update done before you open any emails or other programs.
The reason for this is that the virus is likely to be spreading via email attachments and/or trusted websites. If you don’t click on the infected links and/or sites, you will not be impacted.
In general, there are a few different methods through which ransomware spreads. These include phishing, which spreads the virus through an email that appears to be from an individual or business that you know. These emails generally include a link that they are asking you to follow and enter certain information under the guise of needing to verify some or other details in relation to you or your business. It is best to never follow these links but instead go directly to the business’ website and access your account through the site directly to verify the authenticity of the email you have received.
The virus may also download to your computer by you visiting a website you already trust. Reliable anti-malware software that checks websites for threats as you access them is therefore essential these days.
This particular virus also has a wormlike feature that, once it’s embedded in your computer, looks for vulnerable systems. That means, it can spread from your computer to other computers in a network.
As part of our service to clients on our Advanced Technology Computer Service Agreement, we provide protection for you with a professional grade anti-malware suite to keep your computers and business safe.
Whilst officials state that Australia looks to have missed the worst of the attack as the virus doesn’t seem to have infected government agencies or critical infrastructure, people should not be complacent.
It is imperative to regularly update your software, not only when there is a threat. For most users, a popup will appear when an update becomes available, however, you can also force the computer to check for updates if you are unsure whether you have received them all.
The other important thing is to regularly back up your data on a device that is kept separate and not connected to your computer. Clients on an Advanced Technology Computer Service Agreement enjoy their systems being backed up to a reliable cloud service, allowing for backed up data to be retrieved reaching back as far as 7 years.
How to check if you need to update your Windows software
As we’ve already mentioned, your windows operating system will normally prompt you with a pop up if a new software update is available. Windows 10 periodically checks for updates and automatically downloads and installs them unless told otherwise.
But if you’re not sure if your computer’s software is up to date, you can very easily check with the following steps:
- Select the Windows icon at the bottom left of your monitor, also known as the Start button.
- In the search box, type ‘Update’ and then in the list of results, click ‘Windows Update’.
- Click ‘Check for updates’, and your computer will run a test to find any available updates that may not yet have been installed on your PC.
- If the result says that your device is up to date, you already have the latest software available, and you should be able to relax.
In a recent blog post, Microsoft stressed the importance of regular updates, stating: ‘As cyber criminals become more sophisticated, there is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems.’