The world is in the midst of a global cyber attack that is now deemed the biggest ransomware outbreak in the history of the Internet. It starts with an email that holds your computer data hostage until you pay up. It has hit over 100 countries, which includes the United States, Britain, Portugal, Russia, and Spain.
The ransomware is holding files hostage in a vast number of computers worldwide. It has hit businesses, hospitals, government agencies and even individuals. According to ABC News, hospitals in Britain have been hit hard and they’ve been forced to turn away patients for routine procedures and appointments due to losing access to computer files.
The ransomware travels in an email that looks legitimate, like one that would contain invoices, job offers, and security warnings, as well as other perfectly harmless looking information that normally comes via email. The cyber extortionists are not asking for an exorbitant amount of money. They are demanding anywhere between $300 to $600 to restore access to your computer data. Adomas Svirskas posted the picture below on Facebook, which comes from Reuters. It is a photo of one of the hospitals that were hit in the U.K. by this cyber attack.
Not surprisingly, security experts have observed many of the companies opting to pay the ransom to get their businesses back up and running. It is cheaper to pay the ransom than to call in security and cyber experts to help, not to mention the time it saves by paying the cyber extortionists versus waiting and paying for expert help.
The fact that people will pay the $300 to $600 ransom that the criminals are requesting is why the ransom is set so low. The cyber extortionists are banking on the companies opting to spend a pittance in comparison to their cost for loss of business. If a company calls in experts to help, they are taking a chance at attempting a fix that might not have a remedy outside of the extortionists being paid to release the data back to the computers. That would cost them more time and money, so it is just easier for many to pay the ransom. This was the case in a Kansas hospital last year, but paying the ransom didn’t give them the outcome they hoped for, according to Health Care IT News.
Last year the Kansas Heart Hospital was the victim of a ransomware attack and after it paid the first one, attackers boldly demanded they pay a second ransom, which was their price for decrypting the data. While the amount paid was not disclosed, a spokesperson for the hospital at the time said it was a “small amount.”
Quite a few hospitals fell victim to a cyber ransom attack in 2016 and some paid to get their files unlocked. According to the Los Angeles Times in February of last year, the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid a $17,000 ransom in bitcoin to a cyber extortionist who also demanded payment for unlocking data.
According to ABC News, security experts say this weekend’s “attack appears to be caused by a self-replicating piece of software that takes advantage of vulnerabilities in older versions of Microsoft Windows.” As it finds exposed targets, this ransomware spreads from computer to computer. Cody Anderson shared the Daily Mail‘s map of the globe that pinpoints some of the victims worldwide of this cyber attack in the Facebook post below.
The initial ransom demand is $300, but there is a time limit on this first offer of a payment. After two hours go by and you haven’t met their demand, the price goes up, according to Kaspersky Lab’s security researchers.
According to Fox News, this cyber attack “crippled the U.K.’s health system” and teams of security experts and technicians worked around the clock on Saturday trying to restore the computer system for the nation’s hospitals. According to Fox News live on Saturday, FedEx was one of the businesses that were hit in the U.S. and the story is very much the same across the globe for businesses in other countries. This ransomware also hit the nation’s rail system in Germany. A screen shot of the email that is spreading this attack is seen below. This was seen on BGR and shared by Lorde & Lincoln on Facebook.
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a statement as people worldwide are battling the biggest cyber attack in the history of the internet. The DHS is urging computer users to back up your files and to upload the newest Windows security on the computers that you use at home, work, and school.
The best way to deal with a ransomware situation is explained in detail by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). Homeland Security has posted a link to that website as a site to go to for instructions on how to deal with your computer if it should fall prey to this attack or any other cyber attack.
One of the most important things to remember, according to the US-CERT website, is to stave off the ransomware altogether by being very cautious about clicking on links in emails even when it appears the sender might be known to you. They also warn, ” Be particularly wary of compressed or ZIP file attachments.”
[Featured Image by Mark Lennihan/AP Images]