If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you have no doubt heard about the massive ransomware campaign that has infected over 144,000 Windows computers in a number of organizations around the world. It’s unclear how this ransomware is being disseminated, but there are indications that it may be spreading through a security hole in Windows for which Microsoft released a patch in March.
Malware can be especially dangerous to corporate networks because shared drives and files can cause the infection to spread quickly, so it’s critical to make sure your systems are protected.
How to protect yourself? Update Windows now!
If you do not have your computer settings configured to allow automatic updates, it’s critical that you update your system now. Google “how to search for updates in Windows,” plus whichever version of Windows you are running – 10, 8.2, Vista, etc. The situation is grave enough that Microsoft has even released a patch for Windows XP, which it stopped supporting last year. Your google search will return websites with step-by-step instructions on how to check for and install updates manually.
A note about malware in general
Many other types of malware, including strains of ransomware other than the one we’ve been discussing, are spread through hyperlinks, infected websites or web ads, or email attachments. Materials disguised as seemingly innocuous things, like Dropbox links or Word/PDF documents labeled as invoices, are common ways to spread malware.
There are a few things you can do to be safe:
- Do not open any email or document that looks suspicious.
- Do not open any unusual emails that are different from what you normally receive.
- If you receive something unexpected or out-of-the-ordinary from a friend, do not open it without first calling them to verify whether they sent it.
- Never forward anything that looks suspicious to anyone else – delete it immediately. A good rule of thumb is, “If in doubt, throw it out.”
- Unplug your computer immediately and call your I.T. department if you ever:
- get an unexpected pop-up,
- are prompted to run a program unexpectedly, or
- have a file that will not open as it normally does.
In these instances, do not bother trying to shut your computer down; unplug it immediately and call your I.T. department. If you are working on a battery-powered device, like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, press and hold the power button until the device is completely off and call your I.T. department.
Some of these precautions may seem inconvenient, particularly on a companywide scale, but as the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The time and trouble taken to protect yourself is nothing compared to the problems and cost you will encounter if your system becomes infected.