Wednesday 18 October 2017

Those who 'patched' PC last time can breathe easy

Microsoft has warned for years that obsolete versions of its software could result in serious compromises resulting in significant damages and loss. Stock picture
Microsoft has warned for years that obsolete versions of its software could result in serious compromises resulting in significant damages and loss. Stock picture
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Another month, another major ransomware attack. If you thought last month's WannaCry attack was bad, this could really hurt your PC. "There are no workarounds with this," said one Irish IT expert. "It simply won't let your machine boot up at all."

The good news is that if you took everyone's advice during last month's WannaCry ransomware drama and patched your computer properly, you're unlikely to fall victim to this variant. That's because the attack is thought to use some of the same core technology as the WannaCry outbreak.

In this sense, IT experts are cautiously optimistic entities such as hospitals and schools won't fall victim to the outbreak as they did in May. The bad news is there are still lots of people using unpatched old Windows PCs that are way beyond their safety expiration dates.

At least 5pc of our internet-connected computers use Windows XP or another version that is known to be extra-susceptible to computer viruses.

In some cases, it can't be helped because the systems are part of an expensive industrial set-up where surrounding machinery is based on the old PC's operating system. But in others, it's pure negligence.

Microsoft has warned for years that obsolete versions of its software could result in serious compromises resulting in significant damages and loss. In the case of WannaCry, it made an exception to its policy of not supporting ancient software and put out a security patch. It is not going to do the same for this ransomware variant. So if you did not update your system last month and are caught by the ransomware now, the responsibility falls squarely on your own head.

What is depressing is just how effective ransomware is. If it takes hold of your PC, experts agree that it is usually not possible to defeat it. That is why a policy of backing up your PC's critical information - including files, photos and important databases or programs - is so important.

In this case, a ransom of $300 (€264) in bitcoins was the amount reportedly being requested on each infected computer.

"If you see this text, then your files are no longer accessible, because they have been encrypted," said the message.

In days to come, it's likely that we'll hear about more Irish PCs falling victim to the latest malware outbreak. But it may not be as widespread as WannaCry.

Irish Independent

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