SecurityThreats

Wannacry Ransomware Attack

The WannaCry ransomware attack is an insidious threat to banks, hospitals, and other organizations. It is a kind of crypto-ransomware worm that attacks Windows P.C.s, can spread from one P.C. to another across networks (how worms spread), and encrypts important data, making them inaccessible to the users.

The WannaCry attackers offer a ransom code to decrypt the files once the ransom is paid in cryptocurrency. They demand a huge payment in cryptocurrency for the release of these files. Despite paying, only a few victims receive decryption keys.

Attack Of WannaCry In 2017

WannaCry is a ransomware worm that has been sweeping into many networks since May 2017. After infecting Windows computers, the malware encrypts files on the hard drive, barring the user from accessing it.

In 2017, the initial infection of WannaCry ransom left everyone struck by attacking around 230,000 worldwide. The attackers asked for a payment of $300, which was later increased to $600. The attacks were on banks, hospitals, and corporate sectors in over 150 countries, including the U.S., Europe, India, etc.

The ambulances of the National Health Service in the U.K. were rerouted, leaving out people who required urgent medical assistance and disabling healthcare providers from carrying out their duties. Similarly, other organizations had their systems tampered with after the attacks.

The WannaCry spread had reached the Spanish mobile company, Telefonica, Nissan Motors, FedEx, China National Petroleum, Hitachi, Yancheng police department in China, and many others left dysfunctional. The ransomware gangs also broke into Sony Pictures in 2014, which caused them a huge loss.

The companies were compelled to pay to revive their operations. But even then, not all the victims received their files back. The financial loss was estimated to be $4 billion globally.

Detection And Control Of The WannaCry Attack

WannaCry attack is hard to go unnoticed, but a close study of system logs and network traffic is. It cannot activate if it contacts the kill switch URL and could be somewhere in the infrastructure of affected systems. A good primer can help check if the server logs to identify any manipulation by WannaCry.

The British security researcher Marcus Hutchins discovered that the infection could be further stopped spread if the web domain was registered. This action activated a kill switch which prevented the spread. The infection is still reportedly attacking systems that have not taken protective measures.

Mitigation Of WannaCry Attacks

Other security researchers found ways to recover data from the attack of WannaCry exploits that recovered files from infected computers using hacking methods.

Patching the computer system and upgrading Windows operating systems regularly has proven very effective in keeping the systems secure. Malware bytes are tremendously helpful in recovering the files and detecting the WannaCry ransomware in the system.

How Does WannaCry Attack?

WannaCry ransomware spreads onto the systems with the help of EternalBlue, an exploit from the National Security Agency. Microsoft Windows Operating Systems are the common target, where the virus breaks into the server message block, a file-sharing protocol using a network for transfers. The loopholes of the exploit were very well known to the agency, but no investigations or fixes were carried out before these attacks.

How WannaCry Ransomware Attack Spreads

The unpatched versions of the Microsoft operating system are the most vulnerable to the attack. WannaCry spreads through the fault in the SMB protocol, where multiple nodes are linked for communication.

An arbitrary code gained access to the system by being tricked by WannaCry creators. The code is then stolen by the hacking group Shadow Brokers.

WannaCry uses corporate networks to hop to other Windows operating systems. The virus doesn’t need to be accessed by entering a link or opening any file. It finds vulnerable systems to enter and then copies itself multiple times, executing its program continuously.

A single insecure computer can jeopardize the whole organization. Accessing any malicious software can allow WannaCry ransomware to enter the device and infect computers.

Before The WannaCry Ransom Attack

The risk was known to Microsoft, and a patch was released for windows computers a month before the attack in 2017. However, all operating systems were not updated, and thus on May 12, the outbreak of WannaCry ransomware paralyzed many organizations.

WannaCry uses corporate networks to hop to other Windows systems. The virus doesn’t need to be installed by clicking a malicious link or accessing any file. It enters through an exploit and leaks into the computer’s files in a vulnerable system.

Reasons For The Success Of WannaCry Ransomware Attack

Computer users were not quick to install the Windows updates that patched the exploits that WannaCry took advantage of until they fell prey to the attack in 2017. The update of the operating systems benefits them by installing malware programs and patching for the security of their systems and preventing any attacks. This caused more than 200,000 systems to get affected by the initial WannaCry attack in 2017.

The Present Existence Of The WannaCry Ransomware Attack

The prevention of attacks by using patches has considerably slowed down WannaCry attacks. However, as many systems still neglect updating Windows O.S., the EternalBlue-based malware can hit unpatched systems, causing them to pay the ransom to get the decryption key to get their files back.

How To Avert A WannaCry Or Any Other Cyber Attack?

To prevent the attack, experts strictly recommend updating window users to update their operating systems. The new security WannaCry malware programs and security patch is installed, preventing Microsoft office files and computer networks from WannaCry ransomware attacks.

Maintain File Backups

The files should always be backed up. Even if, after the attack, the files are restored, much of the data is often lost, and while the system restores, the time is used up by using the backup.

Avoid Unknown Files

Any kind of suspicious data should be avoided, and random files must not be opened or downloaded. Doubtful banners and links from dubious websites must be avoided as they may contain harmful content and ransomware variants.

Perform Regular Updates

One of the biggest reasons for WannaCry’s success was an unpatched exploit. While Microsoft had already rolled out updates to fix this, the attackers were quick enough to exploit any computers without the update. This is why remember to stay up-to-date with the latest patches and perform regular updates and checks on your system.

Should You Pay The Ransom?

Experts suggest not paying for the WannaCry ransomware. There are many cases where the files were not recovered even after ransom payments were made as per demand. Security experts often fail to break the criminal’s code, who are also upgrading to make newer and stronger versions of the virus that are harder to break and cause more harm each time.

Impact Of The Attacks

The attack by WannaCry ransomware stirred organizations globally. While Windows had issued warnings, the system updates were ignored, and hence there was destruction on a large scale.

When the attack began, it was considered a pandemic where many corporations, including healthcare, banks, and police departments, were caught off guard.

Some of the affected recovered after the ransom, but not all. Windows XP, 7, 8, and 10 users who were safe from the ransomware attack quickly secured their systems and patched the exploit.

WannaCry: A Wakeup Call

The attack from WannaCry was a wakeup call for cyber security to take urgent actions to recover and prevent it from happening again. This can cause huge financial losses and data that can never be recovered.

The organizations have learned a lesson to keep windows systems and files updated so they don’t suffer from the WannaCry ransomware attack spread rapidly.

Security researchers invented the kill switch domain to prevent attacks and help encrypt files again. The employees were made aware of cyber security. They are regularly advised not to open malicious files or attachments, which is even more applicable today as most employees work remotely.

Conclusion

WannaCry ransomware is to blame for one of the most notable malware attacks in history. It completely wrecked networks all over the world, including banks, entire healthcare systems, and global telecommunication organizations. WannaCry ransomware is still a menace today. Luckily, if your firm is vigilant about upgrading your systems and software, this threat will have no way to exploit your system.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.

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