UPDATE 05.25.17: Here’s Connecting Point’s Service Manager, Jason Kellogg (among others), in an interview about WannaCry and other ransomware hitting systems right here in the Rogue Valley. (Courtesy NBC5, aka KOBI Channel 5, the local NBC affiliate.)
You’re probably safe. But you really should make sure—now.
The first reports came out of Britain last Friday: The National Health Service found some of its Windows PCs under attack by a virulent piece of ransomware named WannaCry, foisted on vulnerable systems by a group calling itself Shadow Brokers. Then it attacked Germany’s national rail system. WannaCry exploits a critical vulnerability in Windows computers, a vulnerability that Microsoft had issued a patch for back in March. But for those not diligent with their operating system updates, many found their computers completely unusable, with a pop-up message informing them that their files were encrypted and locked. To release them, they needed to pay a ransom of £230 (about $300) to a BitCoin account.
By Monday morning, the attacks had surfaced globally, in particular in China, where many computers run on pirated versions of Windows and thus cannot be patched. The extortion scheme has now spread to 150 countries. Microsoft has pointed a finger at the U.S. government’s National Security Agency (NSA), which created hacking tools enabling this type of cyberattack – and then had them stolen by hackers. Ironic.
So are you at risk? If you’re using a licensed copy of Windows and have up-to-date security software installed, you’re probably fine – but let’s make absolutely certain.
Which versions of Windows are at risk?
WannaCry take specific advantage of a vulnerability in older Windows operating systems to infect and encrypt. These versions are Windows 8, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. If you’re currently running Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, or Windows Server 2016 and have been diligent about system updates, you’re fine.
Here are some steps you can take to protect your PC from WannaCry:
- If you don’t have a recent backup, make one immediately. Once WannaCry encrypts your files, your options become very limited. Restoring your system from a backup is one of them – but you can’t make such a backup retroactively. As we tell our customers: You should assume at all times that, 30 seconds from now, everything on your computer will go away… forever. You should always have multiple current backups, with at least one of them kept off-site (in case of fire or other disaster). Talk to one of our sales or service specialists about implementing a robust backup strategy as soon as possible.
- Make sure you have the latest Windows updates and patches installed. As mentioned above, the security vulnerability that makes WannaCry and other attacks possible was identified and patched by Microsoft a couple of months ago – but it only works if it’s been installed. Windows 10 checks for updates on a regular basis, then downloads and installs them automatically. But in light of this recent attack, you should check to make sure you have the latest updates installed. To do this, click the Start button, then go to Settings > Update and security > Windows Update, and select Check for updates. Windows XP users can download a special patch Microsoft created to address this vulnerability. Find out how here.
- If you’ve turned off Windows Update, turn it back on. Many users, weary of constant updates and patches, disable this important feature. Better to deal with a bit of inconvenience than risk infection by malware.
- Use a good Internet security suite. PC Magazine has an in-depth review of the current offerings here. Get a good one, install it, and keep it updated.
- Bring your co-workers into the loop. At your next staff meeting, budget time to go over “best practices” for using office computers. A good place to start: Don’t click on questionable links, and don’t open suspicious attachments. IT administrators should restrict user access to the company network to just the areas they need to do their jobs.
- If you’re attacked, don’t hesitate. Act. Shut down the entire network immediately. Ransomware often threatens dire consequences if you turn off the computer or disable Internet access, but that is rarely the case. Security experts and law enforcement agencies warn against paying ransoms, since this only encourages fresh attacks further down the road. And paying the extortion fee does not guarantee your files will be unencrypted.
- Get a Mac. While no longer immune to all viruses and other malware, Mac systems are far less prone to such infections. (The exception would be if you are running Windows on your Mac via something like Boot Camp or Parallels. Windows running on a Mac is just as vulnerable to WannaCry and other PC malware as any other Windows computer.) The same holds true for users running ChromeOS, Linux, or mobile operating systems like iOS and Android.
The experts at Connecting Point can offer assistance in making the transition from Windows to Mac as painless as possible (we’ve done it literally thousands of times). We even offer a monthly class to ease your switching journey.
It’s both a birthday, and a rebirth.
Happy birthday to us! Back in 1975, the company that would eventually be known as Connecting Point was born. Now, 42 years later, we’ve moved to a beautiful new location at the corner of Poplar and McAndrews in Medford. To celebrate our 42nd birthday and our new digs, Connecting Point’s got some very special offers in store for you…
- For starters, take 42 dollars off the price of ANY new desktop or laptop, Mac or PC. Choose from America’s favorite brands: Apple, HP, Lenovo, ASUS, Acer, and more.
- We’re also offering the $99 Epson Expression Home XP-430 printer/scanner/copier for just 42 dollars with any new computer purchase (and yes, you may combine this with the first offer!).
- Or save 42 dollars on the price of any iPad Pro — and that includes both the 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch models.
- Or choose from our large selection of wired computer speakers, from leading brands like Sony, Logitech, and Altec Lansing, all on sale for just 42 dollars each.
Come celebrate with us!
It’s all part of Connecting Point’s BIRTHDAY AND REBIRTH SALE, celebrating both 42 years as the Rogue Valley’s technology experts – and the move to our beautiful new location at 1251 East McAndrews Road, Medford.
Come join the party at Connecting Point, southern Oregon’s only Apple Premier Partner — and home to sales and service for the best and brightest computers, devices, peripherals, and accessories.
This sale runs from Friday, April 14th through Sunday, April 30th, 2017. Rain checks will be available for all offers except wired speakers, which are limited to stock on hand. Also: Yes, the first and second offers may be combined for even more savings!
Apple, the Apple logo, Mac, and iPad Pro are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.