A major ransomware attack was unleashed worldwide on Friday, infecting at least 75,000 computers in 99 countries, according to preliminary reports. The ransomware locked computers and networks using file encryption software, and demanded payment by Bitcoin (a non-traceable crypto-currency) to release the data.
The attack typically enters through a phishing email and then spreads to other machines on the same network by exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. Although Microsoft discovered the vulnerability and released a patch in March, many computer users do not regularly update their operating systems and may have missed the critical repair.
Better Business Bureau joins with the National Cyber Security Alliance in suggesting the following cyber hygiene defenses:
- Don’t click on links from unfamiliar sources. Even if you think you know the sender, be cautious about clicking on email links. When in doubt, delete it. Be especially wary of messages requiring you to act quickly, asking for personal information, or threatening you in any way.
- Keep clean machines: Prevent infections by updating critical software as soon as patches or new operating system versions are available. This includes mobile and other internet-connected devices.
- Use strong authentication, requiring more than a username and password to access accounts, especially critical networks, to prevent access through stolen or hacked credentials. Check out Lock down your login or more information.
- Conduct regular backups of systems: Systems can be restored in cases of ransomware and having current backup of all data speeds the recovery process.
- Make better passwords: In cases where passwords are still used, require long, strong and unique passwords to better harden accounts against intrusions.
Businesses need to take special precautions when it comes to protecting their customers’ information. One of the BBB Standards for Trust is:
- Safeguard Privacy: Protect any data collected against mishandling and fraud, collect personal information only as needed, and respect the preferences of consumers regarding the use of their information.
One of the ways businesses can safeguard privacy is by taking BBB’s “Five Steps to Better Business Cybersecurity” (bbb.org/cybersecurity).
Consumers can learn more about avoiding scams and fraud at bbb.org/scamtips.