Dealing with Ransomware

Ask the Geek Experts

Jason Roman

Special to Valley News

The latest ransomware cyber-attack, known as “WannaCry,” is affecting hundreds of thousands of computers in over 150 countries worldwide. The malicious extortion scheme infects computers, locks files and encrypts data, effectively paralyzing businesses and causing widespread breakdowns. Early victims of the ransomware include Britain’s hospital network, Russia’s Interior Ministry, Spain’s Telefonica, Germany’s national railway, FedEx in the U.S., and scores of other companies and government agencies, including over 30,000 institutions in China.

This ransomware takes advantage of a vulnerability in the Windows operating system on PC’s that was exposed by the National Security Agency; those documents were then leaked online earlier this year. Microsoft distributed a patch two months ago, however many organizations have not yet installed it.

One click on an infected attachment or bad link could lead to all computers on a network becoming infected.

If your computer or organization is running a version of Windows, you may be at risk. What should you do?

Individual Computers:

  • Run Windows update and get the latest software updates.
  • Update your anti-virus and firewall programs, run a scan and set it to auto-scan.
  • Back up important data to an external or off-network source

Corporate Organization:

  • Apply the latest Microsoft patches
  • Scan all emails (incoming/outgoing) for malicious attachments
  • Backup key data regularly
  • Update anti-virus and firewall software and scan regularly
  • Educate employees on how to identify potential risks
  • If your system is already infected, do not pay the ransom! Paying the ransom (starting at $300 or more in online bitcoin currency) will not ensure a fix.
  • Isolate the infected machine(s) from the network and especially from your servers. Contact law enforcement (FBI) and provide as much information as possible. Run the latest anti-virus scan. Perform a “system restore” to a point well before the infection. Install latest Microsoft updates. Restore data from backup sources.

Geeks Store is an electronics and computer sales and service store They provide an extensive inventory of products at much less than retail pricing and expert repair service to individuals and corporations. They are located at 43195 Business Park Drive in Temecula. (951) 694-4355. Questions for this biweekly column may be addressed to Experts@Geeks.com.

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