A computer virus locked down over 400,000 devices in 2017 by encrypting all the device’s files and demanding a ransom to be paid in Bitcoin for their release. Across the glob, it put a halt to telecom, healthcare, and utility businesses, among others. However, each of these infections could have been prevented with a simple fix.
The saga started when the US National Security Agency detected a Windows vulnerability in the Server Message Block protocol which helps with the communication of various devices on a network. Rather than report their findings to the cybersecurity community, the NSA developed an exploit for the vulnerability called EternalBlue. Shortly after development, a hacker group known as Shadow Brokers stole it.
Microsoft later discovered the vulnerability and released a patch for it on March 14 , 2017. Although the patch was flagged as critical, many victims still had not installed the update on their machine by the time the virus, called WannaCry, began infecting computers on May 12, 2017.
As soon as WannaCry infects a computer, it spreads to all devices within the same network. It then encrypts files on the device and takes control. The victims were given two files, one with information on what had just happened and the other with instructions on how to pay the ransom: $300 per device, which would double if the victim failed to pay within 3 days.
WannaCry wreaked indiscriminate havoc, from creating chaos in National Health Service facilities across the UK, to shutting down the large telecom company Telefonica in Spain, among a great many more.
How can you protect yourself?
You know those seemingly annoying Windows updates? It turns out that Windows users could have prevented this attack if they had just installed the update as Microsoft had released it 59 days prior to the attack. While it may be annoying, these updates protect your system from viruses that could potentially bring all operations to a halt. A Boeing production plant was hit by WannaCry on March 28 2018, which shows the virus is still out there going strong. So make sure to update your devices to keep your operations safe.