Understanding the Biggest Global Ransomware Attack in Internet History

On May 12, 2017, the biggest global ransomware attack in internet history occurred. This attack, called WannaCry, affected computers in more than 150 countries. More than 10,000 organizations were affected, along with 200,000 individuals.

This attack was scary news for business owners. In today’s world, business owners depend on their computers to manage business operations. Being affected by a ransomware attack can bring a business’s operations to a halt. Here’s what you need to know about this record-breaking attack.

What Is WannaCry?

Ransomware is malicious software that holds your computer hostage until you pay money (the “ransom”) to hackers. The software can encrypt all your data and leave you unable to use any of your files. It can lock you out of your computer by preventing you from accessing Windows. It can also stop various apps on your computer from opening.

WannaCry is a type of ransomware. It encrypted victims’ files and demanded a $300 ransom for the decryption key. The money needed to be paid via bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency. Major organizations, like the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) and Russia’s Interior Ministry, were affected.

Origins of WannaCry

How does such a serious attack happen? It started when a hacker group, called the Shadow Brokers, leaked some of the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) tools and software exploits in March 2017. These tools targeted versions of Microsoft Windows. These leaked tools were used to create the WannaCry worm.

How WannaCry Spread

Some types of malware spread through phishing emails or malicious attachments, but that wasn’t the case for WannaCry. Since WannaCry used weapons-grade exploits, it was able to spread without any help from users. Once the worm was released, it spread to vulnerable machines that were on connected networks.

Not all internet-connected computers were vulnerable to this attack. Microsoft patched Windows’ vulnerabilities back in March, and people who updated their systems were protected. However, not everyone is diligent about updating their operating systems. People and companies with unpatched operating systems were vulnerable to the spread of the worm.

The spread of WannaCry was stopped by a computer security researcher. This researcher found a killswitch for the worm. Still, the damage had been done. The potential losses associated with the WannaCry attack are estimated to be as high as four billion dollars.

Takeaways for Business Owners

Information about the WannaCry attack is interesting, but how does it affect your business? While the attack is over, ransomware is still a big problem. Attacks grew by 50 percent throughout the world in 2016. Hackers can make a lot of money from creating malicious software—The average ransomware victim pays $1,077—so there’s little reason for them to stop.

This attack was a wake-up call to businesses to prioritize security updates. Updating your operating systems, or other computer software, can be time consuming, and it may not have been a big priority for you in the past. This needs to change. You should update your operating system as soon as new updates become available.

Other software on your business’s computers should be updated often, too. One of the benefits of using omni-channel cloud-based computing services is automatic updates. If you never remember to upgrade all the programs you use for your business, consider switching to an omni-channel cloud-based ERP system. The automatic updates will give you one less thing to worry about.

Another important takeaway for business owners is the importance of backing up your important data. While the WannaCry attack is over, other ransomware attacks could come along and encrypt your data. If your data is backed up externally, you won’t lose your important information. Your omni-channel cloud-based ERP system will store your data safely in the cloud.