Last week a global-scale cyber-attack, described as the “largest ransomware attack observed in history” hit thousands of companies worldwide, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers and disrupting day-to-day business operations for many organisations.
Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, fear further disturbance as the week goes on, as workers switch on their computers and laptops for first time since spread of the ransomware.
What exactly happened last week?
Unknown cyber criminals installed a virus which targeted Microsoft systems that were running the file sharing protocol Server Message Block (SMB) without the most recent security update installed on their server.
The “WannaCry” ransomware, which locks users’ files before demanding a $300 (£230) payment to allow a user to re-gain access, spread to organisations including the National Health Service (NHS), FedEx, Telefonica, Renault and the Russian interior ministry.
Hundreds of thousands of computers, in at least 150 countries from Russia to Australia, have already been infected. Europol, has described the cyber-attack as the “largest ransomware attack observed in history”. Computer giant Microsoft suggested that the attack should serve as a wake-up call.
What is ransomware?
The term ‘ransomware’ refers to a type of malicious software or virus designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.
The ransomware that hit the NHS in England and Scotland, known as ‘Wanna Decryptor’ or ‘WannaCry’, has already infected more than 200,000 machines since Friday.
How did cybercrime affect the NHS?
One in five NHS Trusts were hit by the attack on Friday. Operations planned for Monday were cancelled at several major hospitals. Some hospitals were forced to cancel treatments and appointments, and divert ambulances to other sites, because the computer systems used to share patients’ medical information remained frozen.
Eleven trusts out of 47 that were hit are still facing issues, leading to further cancellations and delays to services.
Who else does cybercrime affect?
Those most affected by cyber crime are small and medium sized businesses that don’t employ IT Support Services and haven’t implemented a network security or backup strategy to protect their business against cyber-attacks, meaning they often end up paying the highest price in the occurrence of an attack.
Recent research revealed that in 2016, more than 2.9 million British companies were hit by cyber crime at a total cost of £29.1 billion. Phishing was the most common type of attack (affecting 1,299,178 businesses), followed by computer viruses (1,288,547 businesses) and hacking (1,022,781 businesses). Although ransomware ranked last in terms of the number of organisations affected (388,858), it ranked first in terms of financial losses (£7,356,060,699), followed by phishing (£5,923,634,311) and social engineering (£5,350,684,088).
Europol, the pan-EU crime-fighting agency, said the threat was escalating and predicted the number of “ransomware” victims is likely to grow across the private and public sectors.
How could cybercrime affect my business?
Businesses suffer a lot following a ransomware attack. Important data such as financial reports, cash flows, customer contact details and other confidential information can be stolen by cyber criminals and hackers and lost altogether by the business. That very data can be sold to your competitors, allowing them to gain an advantage over your business. Other commonly used files such as pictures, videos and PDF documents are also likely to be amongst the files that are completely lost in the event of a cyber attack.
One thing is for sure, there is no way of predicting when a when cybercrime will happen or the detrimental effect it might have on your business, but defence is the first form of attack against cyber criminals, so what you can do is prepare for potential disasters by protecting your businesses network and keeping your data backed up, safe and secure.
Never forget, malware does not discriminate. Therefore, employing prevention techniques is essential to protect yourself and your business from ransomware and other cyber security threats.
Did you know?
60 per cent of small firms go out of business within six months of a data breach.
How do I stay protected?
The following are some ways through which you can protect your computer from ransomware.
- Backup – Backup your computer immediately if you havn’t already. Backups help you to avoid loss of important files and make it quick and easy to recover your files in the event of a disaster.
- Update – Always make sure that you update your operating system with the latest security patch releases as soon as they become available.
- Avoid – Steer clear of suspicious emails and websites – hackers often use sneaky techniques to trick you into giving your own information directly to them.
- Protect – Always use security software, such as a firewall, anti virus and email filters, to identify and eliminate threats before they can affect your computer or network.
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