Tuesday 22 October 2019

Adrian Weckler on ransomware attack: You will know if you've been targeted - here's what to look out for today

Mr Flynn said that some organisations have warned employees not to open unfamiliar emails. Stock Image
Mr Flynn said that some organisations have warned employees not to open unfamiliar emails. Stock Image
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Is there a chance that hackers may have gotten access to my private medical information for future use?

No. A ransomware attack is very different to other forms of hacking. The whole point is that the computers and files become inaccessible to everyone, including the hackers. The financial motivation behind the attack is not to sell the personal data to scammers - but to make a quick profit from a ransom paid.

I run a business. Am I now at risk and, if so, what should do I do?

You are definitely at risk, according to Irish cybersecurity analysts.

"The big fear is that people will return to their offices on Monday morning, switch on the PCs and click on an infected email," said Conor Flynn, founder of IT security firm Isas and an expert on ransomware attacks. "It's like watching a car crash in two parts. It's very likely that there will be an increased number of incidents on Monday."

Mr Flynn said that some organisations have warned employees not to open unfamiliar emails. He said other companies are printing out warning posters for company lifts and entrances. "They're not sending emails because by the time the staff member gets it, they may already have opened an infected email," he said.

I have a hospital appointment scheduled this week. Is there any chance there could be a mix-up about it now?

It's unlikely. Within hours of the ransomware outbreak becoming known on Friday, the HSE effectively switched internet off in terms of access to its network. Over the weekend, it has been testing its systems to make sure that none is infected. IT security professionals also say that there are no indications yet of Irish hospitals being hit.

I have an appointment with my local doctor tomorrow. What about that being disrupted?

It's still unlikely but not impossible. IT security experts expect the ransomware outbreak to spread today as people return to work after the weekend.

I've just been hit and I can't get into any of my computer's files or programs. What should I do?

"Isolate the machine so that the malware can't move onwards," said Mr Flynn. "Power your machine off and disconnect it from the network. Generally, the best advice is not to pay the ransom. Recover your information from any backups you've made."

If you have not made backups, you may lose your data, which is why small firms are always advised to have backup systems in place as a matter of course.

If you decide that you must pay the ransom because of critical files locked up, you'll need to pay in Bitcoin, the virtual currency. This process has become bizarrely consumer-friendly in recent years. Some ransomware attacks have phone numbers you can call for advice on how to pay in Bitcoin, almost like a call centre.

Dublin Information Sec 2017, Ireland’s cyber security conference, addresses the critically important issues that threaten businesses in the information age. Tickets for the event at the RDS in Dublin can be booked here.

Irish Independent

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