Cybersecurity staff scrambled have been working from Friday, May 12 to patch computers and restore infected ones, amid fears that the ransomware worm that stopped car factories, hospitals, shops and schools could wreak fresh havoc on Monday when employees log back on.
Experts said the spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry — “ransomware” which locked up more than 200,000 computers worldwide — had slowed, but the respite might only be brief.New versions of the worm are expected, they said, and the extent of the damage from Friday’s attack remains unclear.
Infected computers appear to largely be out-of-date devices that organizations deemed not worth the price of upgrading or, in some cases, machines involved in manufacturing or hospital functions that proved too difficult to patch without possibly disrupting crucial operations, security experts said.
Microsoft released patches on Friday to fix a vulnerability that allowed the worm to spread across networks, a rare and powerful feature that caused infections to surge on Friday.
Such attacks are mostly waged against businesses, but can also affect individuals.
Here are some ways to protect yourself from ransomware.
Back up your files
The greatest damage people suffer from a ransomware attack is the loss of files, including pictures and documents.
The best protection against ransomware is to back up all of the information and files on your devices in a completely separate system. A good place to do this is on an external hard drive that isn’t connected to the internet. This means that if you suffer an attack you won’t lose any information to the hackers.
Businesses often save copies of their data to external servers that won’t be affected if their main network is attacked.
Be suspicious of emails, websites and apps
For ransomware to work hackers need to download malicious software onto a victims computer. This is then used to launch the attack and encrypt files.
Use an antivirus program
An age-old computer security tip, antivirus programs can stop ransomware from being downloaded onto computers and can find it when it is.
Most antivirus programs can scan files to see if they might contain ransomware before downloading them. They can block secret installations from malicious adverts when you’re browsing the web, and look for malware that may already be on a computer or device.
Always install updates
Companies often release software updates to fix vulnerabilities that can be exploited to install ransomware. It is therefore advisable to always download the newest version of a software as soon as it is available.
Never pay the ransom
Victims of ransomware attacks are advised to never pay the fee as it encourages attackers and may not result in files being recovered. There are some programs that can help decrypt files. Or, if you have a back up, you can restore your device from that.