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Do Not Dance The Hillary, Unless You WannaCry


In what seems the biggest Ransomware attack to date, WannaCry is spreading across the globe faster than the news itself. It is a global cyberattack with its feet already in hundreds of countries, having affected thousands of organizations and individuals. Reports state that vast numbers of systems across the world have been affected since last Friday, when the attacks began. These attacks have been recorded across 150 countries, bringing into question the global interconnectivity of computer networks with little or no security. It is believed that an exploit (a software designed to gain access to a computer system flaw/installing malware) was leaked from a batch of cyber-weapons built by the US National Security Agency.

The virus, once it gains access to a system, encrypts the hard disk and demands a ransom ranging between $300 and $600 in virtual Bitcoin currency. The encrypted screen of a WannaCry victim appears somewhat like this:

WannaCry Alert

With its threat to erase all data and block access to the system and its files, WannaCry remains threatening for organizations and individuals across the world. The National Investigation Agency has urged people not to pay ransomware, stating that there remains no guarantee of getting the stolen data back. The National Health Service (NHS) in England and Scotland is among the worst hit, with systems locked down to zero access and blocking patients from assistance or admittance. In addition, numerous other organizations in many different countries have also been hit by the ransomware virus.

Apart from WannaCry, there are rumors of another hoax video being circulated over Whatsapp titled “Dance of The Hillary.” This remains a hoax rumor, which is believed to be a mutated form of the “Dance of the Pope” virus that had once appeared in the past, and reads: “Tell all contacts from your list not to accept a video called the Dance of the Pope. It is a virus that formats your mobile. Beware, it is very dangerous. They announced it today on the radio. Pass on to as many as you can. It was announced on the radio in USA.”

Countries affected by WannaCry

With the high intensity of threats, cyber experts are already down on their knees trying to safeguard the Internet, which is rapidly being infected. The above image shows the spread of WannaCry on the world map.

The Need to Understand Cybersecurity

It is vital that all Internet users understand the basics of cybersecurity and the threats that prevail over the Internet. With our utter dependency on mobile phones and computers, the basic knowledge of safeguarding our data remains a prerequisite. Knowledge of cybersecurity can help avoid any traps on the Internet.

The Internet, as we have all seen, is filled with fraudulent websites, spoof-links (that appear like real sites), phishing attempts, worms, botnets, and hackers. Spending time safely on the Internet remains a constant challenge and a matter of being always vigilant. Users need to be aware of the ways hackers and cyber criminals target computers. For example, one should be able to identify fraudulent emails containing links to malicious downloads. It is also important to know about the security features of the particular computer system and to update the device/Operating System regularly.

We often tend to overlook the security features of a device, while we thoroughly research and study the storage and performance specifications. Also, we overlook systems running on outdated versions, the possibility of threats wherein becomes high.

To better understand the threats to cybersecurity, let us consider a basic example of Internet browsing. Often during the course of your browsing, you must have landed on websites that require sign-up. Leaking your personal details to unfamiliar websites can result in a variety of undesirable consequences. For instance, submitting a phone number on the Internet can enable cyber criminals to trigger your device using a malware link sent through SMS.

There are many ways in which cyber criminals work. Broadly classified, these can be understood as either stealing data through phishing attempts or planting ransomware to generate ransom.

Phishing refers to making direct contact with a person, either through emails or messages. Such emails are sent using the name of a senior manager or acquaintance asking the receiver to promptly respond. Among the possible scenarios may be requests for confidential information or an urgent payment.

Ransomware contains planted bots that take control of the entire system (e.g., WannCry). It hacks into the computer system and suspends all activities, asking the user to pay a ransom to gain back access of the files and content.

Apart from these threats, cyber criminals also hack into systems that are vulnerable or have a low security firewall. However, proper knowledge of cybersecurity can always help you remain on the safer side. There are numerous courses on cybersecurity that explain what you need to know right from scratch. A complete list of cybersecurity courses is available here.