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Cyber Attacks – A Virus Called WannaCry

In this edition of Computer Know How, we will be covering the recent cyber-attacks that have hit major businesses here in the UK including the NHS. You may have seen over the past week many news reports on the WannaCry virus, but what actually is it?

This particular piece of malware is a type of trojan virus1 called “ransomware”. As the name suggests, this type of virus basically holds the infected computer hostage and then demands payment in order to restore access to the files on the victim’s computer.

RansomWare like WannaCry works by encrypting files on a user’s computer. After the virus has encrypted some or even all of the files, it then demands that a ransom is paid

in order to decrypt those files. WannaCry demands that the victim pays a ransom of $300 in BitCoin2 at the time of infection. If they have not received payment after 3 days then the ransom is doubled. After 7 days without payment, WannaCry will delete all of the encrypted files and all data will be lost. WannaCry targets various types of files, including PDF’s, Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.

The attack is not over yet, WannaCry was first discovered on Friday May 12th and had spread to an estimated 57,000 computers in more than 150 different countries by the end of the day.

This virus is most commonly received through downloading email attachments, or through clicking on links received in emails. Once on a computer, it can quickly spread through the network and infect other computers on the same network.

Regardless of which operating system you use, you need to make sure it is completely up to date, including security updates immediately. Also ensure that your anti-virus software is up to date as well. As always, we recommend that you have all of your data backed up safely as well. Sadly, there is no confirmed fix for WannaCry at this time.

1 A trojan horse is a program that claims to rid your computer of viruses, but instead introduces viruses to your computer.
2 BitCoin is a type of virtual currency.