Last Friday, 12 May, 2017, WannaCry hackers launched one of the largest cyber attacks in history.
What is ransomware? A dangerous computer program that locks the computer on which it is downloaded. All the information on that computer is then locked and held for ‘ransom’, where the computer hackers then ask for payment before unlocking the computer and all the information it contains.
How does this get downloaded onto a computer? Hackers send ‘phishing’ emails to you. These look like they have come from someone you know and are designed to give them access to your passwords and other such sensitive information. Phishing emails can also contain malware (programs bad for your computer) or ransomware. When you open these emails and click on the links they contain, the dangerous software is downloaded onto your computer, all your private information can be made available to the hackers, and the computer gets locked.
What is WannaCry? This is ransomware that has hit more than 200,000 companies in 150 countries across the world since Friday, 12 May, 2017.
How can it be stopped? There was a ‘kill switch’ on the internet – someone was able to trigger this and stop the virus from spreading.
How much money did the hackers make? The data is still coming in but it sounds like the hackers may have made a bunch of mistakes along the way, including charging too little as ransom. At last count, the estimate was that they had made only about $50,000. This is very little given the number of large companies and computers that were affected.
What’s the moral of the story?
- Have good anti-virus software installed on your computer.
- Do not open links from just anyone!