It's Important to Protect Yourself from Ransomware Attacks. Here's How!

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Who's being targeted? Am I safe? The plain victims are users who continue to run Windows XP even after Microsoft stopped releasing timely software and security updates for the platform. "We need governments to consider the damage to civilians that comes from hoarding these vulnerabilities and the use of these exploits".

There are the companies, universities, hospitals and other organizations that didn't install Microsoft's fixes and take other precautions, such as backing up data. You can either choose to decrypt your data, pay the hackers the ransom and encourage their vile activities, or you can choose to contribute to the greater good by having your data erased and starting all over again.

Avast, an global security software firm that claims it has 400 million users worldwide, said the ransomware attacks rose rapidly Saturday to a peak of 57,000 detected intrusions. "Still, the NSA can't be very proud of this".

The WannaCry ransomware has already infected hundreds of thousands of Windows computers across the world, and as the world is recovering from fiasco, security experts are also looking into what caused so many systems to be compromised so fast.

A new report by CNet shares Microsoft's anger over government secrecy surrounding bugs, a practice the tech company directly blames for the recent wave of attacks.

The ACLU, meanwhile, urged Congress to pass a law requiring the government to disclose vulnerabilities to companies "in a timely manner", so that they can patch them as soon as possible.

As CNet states: "Microsoft is criticizing government agencies for hoarding software flaws and keeping them secret, calling a massive, new ransomware attack a "wake-up call" to this problem".

Avivah Litan, a cybersecurity analyst at Gartner, agreed that the government is "is negligent not doing a better job protecting companies", but added that it's not like "you can stop the US government from developing cybertools" that then work as intended.

Still, it was Microsoft that wrote the exploitable software to begin with.

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The one consistent thing here is that it is Microsoft Windows that is vulnerable - or, at least, out of date versions of the operating system. "But updating your Microsoft operating system is something that should be done relatively quickly", he concludes.

Consumers can remedy this by configuring their Windows machines to automatically install the latest software updates. He noted, however, the complexity that can be involved in patching a security hole.

Such attacks are mostly waged against businesses, but can also affect individuals.

The hacking software spreads in silence among computers within a system and shuts them down by encrypting data and then demanding a $300 ransom to unlock them. Multiple backups also help.

"It's not rocket science", Litan said.

WannaCry ransomware can target computers that are connected to the internet and can lock the owner from accessing their files by encrypting their entire data.

In other words, if people had simply stayed on top of security updates, their machines would not have been infected.

According to a report in Financial Times on Thursday, issuing a free custom support would have protected the computers from the ransomware attack.

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