VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A computer virus named “Wannacry” has hit more than 300,000 systems in more than 150 countries, including the United States.
Experts are calling it the largest cyber attack ever.
According to U.S. officials, the list of victims in this country is relatively small right now. However, that’s no reason to rest easy.
The fast moving bug is still lingering and your home computer or job network could be at risk.
“It’s a well thought out cyber security attack purely for making money,” said Doug Thiry, president of Thiry Technology.
Of the ransomware, Thiry told 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings, “It’s random and indiscriminate so it will affect folks at home just as much as businesses.”
Thiry said his company spent the weekend calming client’s fears.
“Right now, we’re most busy with customer awareness and education. A lot of folks are asking us, ‘Are we protected?’” he said.
Taste restaurant is one client. Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Rob Loomis explained their company’s system had already been updated, which limited their risk.
“I think it’s important to have a business culture that’s aware that that is out there and then just take reasonable steps to protect yourself,” Loomis said.
Loomis said customer information is not at risk during this attack, but the company is taking steps to make sure its data isn’t compromised either.
Loomis said the company advises employees not to open attachments from unknown senders and company leaders make sure to back up important data.
“This story is scary and it’s real but there were things that could have been done in most cases to prevent it,” Loomis said.
Preventing the bug from infecting your computer is key.
Experts say once you open an infected attachment the software locks your files. You then get a ransom note demanding $300 to get them back. The amount increases by the day.
“The instructions are how to pay the ransom who to email and it’s like watching a James Bond movie. They tell you where to drop the money and they’ll be in touch,” Thiry said.
There are at least two variations.
Experts say systems using outdated software like Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 are particularly at risk.
Large networks face the greatest challenge.
“Basically once one computer gets infected in the building it uses Microsoft to spread quickly throughout all the computers,” Thiry said.
Law enforcement warns to never pay the ransom.
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) wrote a letter to federal agencies Monday and asked what steps the government is taking to ensure that federal IT and contractor systems have installed security updates to fend against the ransomware.
“Both within the federal government and across critical infrastructure sectors, IT security has too often been either, at best, addressed as an afterthought in the product development cycle or, at worse, simply neglected. While appropriate policy responses will depend on a fuller accounting of this outbreak’s attribution, an inescapable conclusion is that we must immediately address the insecurities embedded in commercial software,” wrote Sen. Warner.
Microsoft had stopped supporting older versions of Windows, but it is pushing out special automatic updates to those systems now to block the worm.
According to NBC, analysts said you should not click the “check payment” or “decrypt” buttons in the popup message. Instead — if you’re able to — download and install Microsoft patch MS17-010, available here, which should work on Windows systems going all the way back to Vista. If you’re not sure which system you have, go to the Control Panel in your Start menu and select “System.” You should see basic information about your computer at the top of the page.