Go ‘DIE Hard 4’ On Ransomeware!

The world was held hostage by WannaCry (or Wcrypt) ransomware attack last Friday, crippling more than 200,000 systems across 150 countries that were using unpatched and outdated Windows operating systems. By sheer luck or because of our commendable internet security ‘best-practices’, Malaysia luckily was spared the brunt of the attack.

However, others weren’t as lucky as numerous small and medium business enterprises and several public service providers were basically put to a standstill due to devastating effect of the ransomware attack. What’s worst was is that even healthcare and transportation services were affected by the attack causing distress and havoc on innocent civilians everywhere.

This chaotic scenario reminds me of the movie Live Free or Die Hard, the 4th instalment of the Die Hard franchise where John McClane (Bruce Willis) is up against a team of cyber criminals who were trying to bring down the country’s financial, transportation and power infrastructure. At that time (2007) the idea seemed farfetched, but in the age of IT, seems a lot more plausible. At the end of the movie, old tech and shear guts and determination wins the day for our hero.

IT experts agree that cyber-attacks will increase in the coming years. As long as there are money to be made, and unsuspecting and willing computer and smartphone users, business enterprises and organizations to be victimized, we will not hear the end of it any time soon. Worldwide, there is an average of over 500,000 devices attacked or fall victim to malwares every day. In 2016, an estimated $1-billion was paid to unblock ransomware; and in 2015, ransomware called CryptoLocker extorted more than $325-million (defenceweb.co.za).

Banking and businesses enterprises can afford to employ and put in place layers of security defenses to minimize the threat. However, these organizations uses the same basic best practices that is also applicable to everyday Joe and Janes to keep our data and information safe.

Here are the basic rule of thumb and best practices that we can use to avoid being another number in the malware statistics:

1) Make sure your computer is protected with up-to-date antivirus antispyware, etc. and all necessary security “patches” and updates.

2) Frequently back up important documents and files.

3) Use passwords that can’t be easily guessed, and protect your passwords.

4) Protect information when using the Internet and email.

5) Minimize storage of sensitive information online.

6) Use encryption software whenever possible.

7) Beware of scams (especially email, sms or messages with attachments from unknown people).

8) Do not click random links or open sites that are unfamiliar to you.

9) Do not download or install unfamiliar, unsolicited programs/apps software off the Internet.

10) Secure laptop computers and mobile devices at all times: Lock them up or carry them with you.

There are a lot of cheap yet effective security apps and software that is available over the Internet. Try to avoid going for the ‘free’ apps that is unfamiliar or is not verified and endorsed by Google (Android) or Apple Store. I assure you, with no knowing when and how the next cyberattack will hit, every penny spent on security software is money well worth spent in the long run.

It is also important to remember that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and that is, in most cases, the human factor. Cyber security isn’t merely about tools and technology, but about people too. So it pays to be extra cautious and mindful when navigating the web.

Nonetheless, if you do get ‘attacked’, knowing that you are prepared for it makes the world of difference. If all else fails, you can always go all ‘Die Hard – McClane’ on your computer and revert back to the traditional pen and paper method.