Many experts have been warning for a long time, but last Friday it became a reality. A new strain of Ransomware is infecting over 220,000 computers. The infection affected several British hospitals, Renault-a French car maker, and the German railroad operator- Deutsche Bahn. Although a kill switch for the Ransomeware has stopped the spread of this version of Ransomware, the fix is only temporary. The WannaCry Ransomware virus, once activated, encrypts files, drives, and entire networks. Once the Ransomware infects the computer, a message appears on the screen telling the user that the computer and its data are unavailable and can only gain access by paying a ransom in the form of the crypto currency, Bitcoin.
The virus was able to spread so quickly because the blackmailers had used a zero-day gap in the Windows operating system. This is a security vulnerability in all operating system versions since Windows XP. Microsoft had already released an important security bulletin and important patches of this vulnerability in March with security update MS17-010, which can be found here: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/security/ms17-010.aspx
Due to the ransomware attack, Microsoft released new patches to fix the security gap, which can be found here: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/msrc/2017/05/12/customer-guidance-for-wannacrypt-attacks/.
All users, whether companies or individuals, should install the appropriate patch for their respective Windows system as soon as possible.
If infected by ransomware…
Even with the best precautions and policies in place, it is possible to fall victim to an attack. In the event that you are the victim of Ransomware, here is some advice to keep in mind:
- Remain calm. Rash decisions could cause further data loss. For example, if you discover a ransomware infection and suddenly cut power to a server, versus powering it down properly, you could lose data in addition to the infected data.
- Check your most-recent set of backups. If they are in-tact and up-to-date, the data recovery becomes easier to restore to a different system.
- Never pay the ransom because attackers may not unlock your data. We mentioned this earlier on. There are many cases of ransomware victims paying the ransom demanded and not receiving their data in return. Rather than running this risk, companies should work with data recovery experts who may be able to regain access to the data by reverse engineering the malware.
- Contact a specialist for advice and to explore recovery options. We can examine your scenario to see if we have a solution already in place or if we are able to develop one in time.
To date, engineers at Kroll Ontrack have been able to identify over 225 variations of Ransomware that infect user devices and are continuing to produce more variations every day, plus others that may not have been reported already. The team of engineers at Kroll Ontrack work around the clock to identify and find a solution for each type of Ransomware. There is hope for Ransomware victims.
Michael Nuncic is Marketing Communications Manager at the German Ontrack Data Recovery office in Böblingen for more than 5 years. Highly experienced in computer, network and software topics, he is a professional editor for blog and technical articles for almost 20 years now.