12th May, Friday, 2017 dawned dark and menacing for computer users worldwide. More than 200,000 computers in more than 100 countries were affected when a ransomware stormed through the systems and played havoc globally. Wannacry, a computer worm targeting a loophole in Windows OS (primarily XP, 7 & 8), encrypts data and confidential files, rendering them useless and decrypts them only after the payment of a ransom. This self replicating worm has the ability to move from computer to computer, making it all the more destructive.
This ongoing cyberattack has affected networks all over the world- mostly, Europe. There have been reports of around 48 NHS in and around Britain; various corporations in Spain like Telephonica too have been hit. Not to mention services like FedEx and computers across Russia, North Korea and Ukraine are hit. Deutsche Bahn, the leading railway network in Germany faced serious handicap and the Renault, France had to stop production abruptly.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden lashed out at the NSA, blaming the premier security intelligentsia for the global damage. According to the former contractor, NSA knew about the flaw in the software but did not warn Microsoft about it until after the program was stolen.
India too had to bear the brunt of what is being called the worst cyberattack of the recent times. Several companies in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad have been infected by the programme. Police systems in Andhra Pradesh were faced with a major hindrance as coordination and surveillance among the taskforce was deeply challenged, although no incidents involving illegal money transfer have been reported. The chances of Indian systems being corrupted are high mostly owing to the usage of old or pirated software.
Although there hasn’t been any serious impact in Indian cities, ATMs are still ineffectual till their programs have been updated. The Government has also requested all WINDOWS users to upgrade to a safer version of the software. Apart from local and isolated disturbances, the systems remain safe and running.
According to experts, the ransom asked in return for decrypting files should not be paid; after all, there is no guarantee that the files would really be restored. Learning where the virus attacked first might help in revealing the fibre of the infection. Despite this, there is no assurance that the contagion could be curbed.Meanwhile, all that is left for us users to do is refrain from opening links from unknown sources or run unauthorized programs. Firewalls and antivirus softwares are beneficial shields against such malwares.
The user, himself/herself is the greatest anti-virus though. If you act smartly and use the internet carefully then the chain of this menace can be broken which is the basic design on which a worm works. Stay safe!