“I believe that through knowledge and discipline, financial peace is possible for all of us,” said a famous American author Dave Ramsey. I read and wondered is using “knowledge” and “discipline” in one sentence a good idea? Why I couldn’t put it to rest was the other half of the quote: “financial peace is possible for all of us.”
While I was still thinking about it, my dad walked up to me with a phone in his hand. “Did you see? This new ransomware is on the rise,” he said while showing an alarming message he received on WhatsApp. He looked a bit tensed after reading about a computer virus dubbed WannaCry, and why would he not be?
Working in a banking sector for over 30 years, it was a no-brainer for him to realize how this nasty little virtual monster could also affect banking and financial operations. Despite very little did he know about the concept or technology behind such a horrendous cybercrime, the word “ransom” was enough for him to apprehend its consequences.
Some of you may also have a lot of questions in mind like what is ransomware, how it works, or what trouble it can cause, etc. Right? Well, in order to address all your questions, I am attempting to demystify WannaCry, making buzzword of the week become–wait for it–ransomware.
Ransomware is a form of extortion that uses malware, a malicious software program that hackers and bad guys use to get into other people’s computer. Once done, hackers lock down all the important data so that users cannot access it. It is where the extortion part comes into picture. If users want to regain access to their data, they will have to pay some money to hackers via Bitcoin, which is a cryptocurrency.
WannaCry, like any other ransomware, does exactly what we mentioned previously except the fact that it has another dark side: Spreader. What it does is once it is activated on a computer, it transmits WannaCry across all other computers on the network. This is how WannaCry managed to spread around the globe over the weekend.
Ransomware gets into the system by means of an incoming email into your inbox. The email generally contains some attachment, which is in fact a malicious program similar to malware. Once the file is downloaded onto your computer, the malware gets activated. However, in the case of WannaCry, Microsoft’s Windows OS such as XP was badly hit. Microsoft said that WannaCry was a part of NSA’s leaked set of programming instructions, exposing huge numbers of systems to risk.
As unfortunate as it may sound, WannaCry had a lot of businesses and sectors under toes. Despite the fact that all of the cyber security units globally are were probing the attacks, they seemed stumped about its origin for quite some time. Although the attack has been slowed down already, thanks to a British IT expert Marcus Hutchins who managed to crack it.
— Monica Jasuja (@jasuja) May 15, 2017
Are we safe now? Plain and simple, NO! WannaCry is just one type of ransomware whose impact was never seen or imagined before. Nonetheless, there will be more such attacks in the future. The good part, however, they may not take as much time as WannaCry did for experts to detect and slow it down.
WannaCry was also the most recent development in the global ransomware and we are paying attention to big threats lying ahead in the future. Does that mean ransomware as a business has been around for years and on the rise already? Sadly, yes. There was a popular IBM study earlier which indicated that ransomware spiked 6000 percent in 2016.
Ransomware was not really a thing a couple of years ago. First few incidents were reported in 2013 and 2014. Notably, in 2016, things started ramping up beyond anyone’s imagination. Now, a lot of cyber criminals have been involved in this since it is way to make money quickly. The reason behind demanding money via Bitcoin is simple: It’s untraceable.
As far as money part is concerned, hackers demand between $100 and $1000. Apart from ransomware, there are two other main types of extortion. One that involves theft of data that is sensitive, which might be connected to a merger or trade secrets. In such cases, cyber criminals threaten to make the data public if ransom is not paid. There is one more rare type of attack wherein attackers threaten to take the online system down by coordinating DDos or Distributed Denial of Service attack.
Incidents like WannaCry are what termed as hygiene issues in cyber security firms. All you can do is make sure your system is updated.
- You also need to install latest security patches in order to protect yourself from any exploit for that matter. Microsoft has already issued a patch for this.
- There are also some other ways to prepare. Many internet companies offer security plans that cover a range of things around ransomware.
- In addition, backing up system is one of the important measures to take care of before such incidents take place.
Coming back to the quote I mentioned at the start, although “knowledge” and “discipline” sound good together, they have very little to do with a financial peace. On a lighter note, I will end this story with what Gautam Buddha had said: “The root of suffering is attachment.” It seems Buddha probably knew about all our issues with virus and ransomware a few centuries ago.