WannaCry Ransomware

Dear Readers,

Ransomware has created much hype these days due to its sudden breakout worldwide, affecting nations and organisations posing a major threat to them. As many exams are approaching, there is a high possibility that you may see questions related to this topic in upcoming competitive exams. 

Ransomware can be defined as a malicious software, designed with the intent to block the access to any computer system, holding the owner to ransom till the demanded sum of money is paid. Ransomware often infiltrates a PC as a computer worm or Trojan horse that takes advantage of open security vulnerabilities. A crypto-ransomware, called WannaCry or WannaCrypt affected more than 150 countries, including India.  It has already affected major businesses and organisations, including FedEx, Renault and Britain's National Health Service.

Recently, the Japanese electronics maker Hitachi, a prominent Korean theatre chain and the Chinese government reported that their systems had been affected. Chinese state media reported that 40,000 businesses and institutions have been hit, including universities, gas stations, and city services. And that's mere a measure of the electronic consequences of WannaCry. The software attack has taken a toll on many people in the real world. Health care providers in Britain's NHS, for example, were forced to turn ambulances away and cancel or delay cancer treatments for patients over the weekend.

The ransomware encrypts most of the user files on a Windows PC with virtually unbreakable encryption. A message is posted on the computer's screen informing the user that he must pay a ransom in the online cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Two countdown clocks on the screen tell the user how much time remains before the ransom is doubled (usually 3 days), and how much time remains before the encrypted files are deleted altogether (usually a week).

However, Windows PCs running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 that have installed Microsoft's system updates since March should be immune to WannaCry infection, at least for now. Recently, Microsoft took the extraordinary step of releasing patches against WannaCry for Windows XP and Windows 8, neither of which is still supported.

The RBI has directed banks to update the Microsoft patch recently after news of the ransomware. This should help India’s banking system to insulate against potential threats.

Stay Cautious and Protect yourself from potential Ransomware attacks!!

Update your software: It is important that you remain vigilant about keeping your machine up to date. Install important security updates can help you.

Strict Antivirus Security: In addition to keeping Windows or your PC up-to-date with the latest security enhancements, antivirus software can prevent malware from infecting your computer.

Be wary of suspicious emails and pop-ups: Avoid clicking links inside dubious emails. Do not download anything from a not so trusted source. Be very cautious and vigilant of your online presence and activity.

Create Data Backup: If something unlikely happens your data backup can save you, so store your data somewhere too, you may store it in any secondary media storage like a physical hard drive.

Takeways from Ransomware: Questionnaire

Q1. Recently Ransomware created a big hype worldwide affecting numerous countries and multinational organisations posing a major security threat. Write an essay in 300 words on Ransomware: Major security threat worldwide.

Q2. Write a letter to your younger brother expressing your concern regarding the recent outbreak of WannaCry Ransomware and security threats of the online world, telling him to be wary of his online presence and the precautions he can take to stay protected. (Word Limit-150 words)

Q3. Ransomware is a software (virus), designed with the intent to block the access to any computer system and then compelling user to pay a ransom. Recently which ransomware broke out worldwide and which mode of Ransom was it demanding?
Ans- WannaCry, Bitcoin

Q4. What is Bitcoin?
Ans- Bitcoin is a distributed peer-to-peer digital currency that can be transferred instantly and securely between any two people in the world. It's like electronic cash that you can use to pay friends or merchants. Japanese-American physicist Satoshi Nakamoto is speculated as the creator of Bitcoin.

Q5. Why are the hackers and online extortionist using Bitcoin?
Ans- Unlike most other forms of payment, Bitcoin is completely unregulated. There is no central issuer of bitcoins and bitcoin transactions are untraceable. Bitcoin can't be used to identify the attacker personally. Instead, whenever you trade in bitcoin, a private key associated with your wallet is used to generate a bit of code called an address, that is then publicly associated with your transaction but with no personal identifying information. That’s why it’s the preferred currency of the dark web, and why there are so many risks in using it. 

Q6. What is Computer Malware?
Ans- Malware, are malicious software designed to harm a computer which may or may not be connected to a network. Malware can be in the form of worms, viruses, Trojans, spyware, adware, bots and rootkits, etc., which steal protected data, delete documents or add software not approved by a user.

Worm- These programs have the ability to replicate themselves. Their sole objective is to increase their population and transfer themselves to another computer via the internet or through storage media. Their replicating nature consumes hard drive space, thus slow down the machine. A notable example of worms is SQL Blaster which slowed the internet for a small period of time.

Virus- They also have the ability to replicate themselves, but they do damage files on the computer they attack. They stick themselves to songs, videos, and executable files and travel all over the internet. Almost all viruses are attached to an executable file, which means the virus may exist on a system but will not be active or able to spread until a user runs or opens the malicious host file or program. W32.Sfc!mod, ABAP.Rivpas.A, Accept.3773 are some of the examples of Virus programs.

Trojan- It is a harmful piece of software that looks legitimate. Users are typically tricked into loading and executing it on their systems. After it is activated, it can achieve any number of attacks on the host, from irritating the user (popping up windows or changing desktops) to damaging the host (deleting files, stealing data, or activating and spreading other malware, such as viruses). Trojans are also known to create back doors to give malicious users access to the system. Unlike viruses and worms, Trojans do not reproduce by infecting other files nor do they self-replicate.



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