What Is The WannaCry Virus And Could It Affect You?
As I write this post, in the middle of May 2017, there has just been a widespread computer virus attack on many large companies and organisation across the world, including of course the National Health Service in the UK.
It is unlikely that this particular virus is going to affect many independent business and home users, not least because this WannaCry virus has now been stopped from spreading any further. However there will undoubtedly be more viruses to come in the future.
So what can we do to best protect ourselves from contracting a computer virus in the first place – and recover from it if we unwittingly do so?
Getting A Virus
In most cases the reason for creating and spreading these viruses is to gain access to your computer and then block you from accessing any of your documents or files. The people behind it will then demand a fee to unblock you. This is why it’s known as “ransomware”.
As home users or small businesses we effectively have to infect our computer ourselves, by clicking on a file link which then instantly spreads the virus throughout the device we’re using. This virus file will normally come to us through a link or attachment in an email, which may very well be styled to look like it’s from a company that we already know and trust.
So above all else we have to be extra cautious of email attachments and links that we’re sent, but of course we already know this. Unfortunately the criminals are becoming better and more believable in their deception.*
There are two bits of key advice that all the experts have given out following this ‘cyber attack.’ This is particularly for Microsoft Windows users because we are the main ones affected by computer viruses, but it’s also good advice for Mac owners too as viruses will become more commonplace for them once more Apple devices are in use and they become worth targeting.
* The recent WannaCry virus did not actually infect all the computers it has through this method, but through a weakness in the Operating System. However, most computer viruses will be contracted this way.
Getting A “Vaccination”
The first piece of advice is to make sure you keep your computer up to date with the latest Microsoft updates. Apparently anyone with the latest update (or ‘patch’ as you may have heard it called) installed, which was released a couple of month’s ago, would have been protected against this latest virus.
I personally have my laptop set to automatically apply these Microsoft updates as soon as they are released – which is usually every 3 – 4 weeks.
You will know if this is running on your computer because it will tell you when updates are available and that they will be applied when you turn off your device. The next time you turn on your device the updates will be fully installed and you’ll notice that it takes longer on this one occasion to start up. It shows a % Complete figure as it works through the process.
Whilst having the most recent Microsoft update on your computer may have prevented you getting this WannaCry virus, there will be many other viruses for which a ‘vaccination’ is not yet available.
Your Get Out Of Jail Free Card
As well as making sure you always have the latest software updates, the other main piece of advice you will of heard is that you must make regular Back Ups of all the important documents and files on your computer – and then that you must then store them somewhere separately from your device.
If you’re unlucky and you do get a serious virus on your computer, then you probably only have two options.
- Pay the ransom to the criminals to unblock your computer
- Wipe everything clean and start again
You may feel your options are even more limited if you don’t have a recent Back Up of all your files safely somewhere else. You may feel yourself entirely at the mercy of the criminals
If you do have a recent back up of all your files then you’ll almost certainly be able to get someone to ‘clean’ your computer and then re-upload your files back on to it. Or in the worst case scenario, add them to a new computer.
Personally I do make a Back Up of all my computer files fairly regularly, copying them onto a separate hard drive. I have also, even before recent events, been considering using a cloud service such as iDrive. This type of service Backs Up all your computer files to a remote storage facility, preventing the total loss of important documents and files being lost or stolen. (I still have some research to do on this and will update this post when I have done so).
However you do it, you should ideally have at least two Back Ups of your computer files. And then at least one of these Back Ups should be away from your own home, in case the other is destroyed or stolen through fire or theft.
If you’d like more information about how to protect yourself from viruses such as this, you can read more here at – WannaCry Ransomware: How to protect yourself
Protecting Your Website From Viruses
Your website cannot get a virus in the same way as your computer can, but it can suffer what is effectively the same fate.
A website can be maliciously taken over in a process that is usually referred to as “hacking.” The people behind such acts may do so to demand a ransom, or for no real apparent reason other than because they can – and to publish their own, often offensive, content on your site.
The ways to protect and defend against this are very similar to that with computer viruses. Software updates should be applied as soon as they are released and the website should be Backed Up regularly. This way a clean version can be reinstalled if ever the worst should happen.
I make sure that Firewall Security software is added to any website I create, as well as setting up an external Back Up service. I can also maintain the software updates and Back Ups for my clients for a moderate monthly fee.
No one can guarantee against ever being hacked. If someone clever and determined enough wants to then they will. However by putting strong security measures in place we can deter all but the most determined of website hackers. I have only ever had one website hacked in six years and in that case I was able to restore it within a few hours of being discovered.
Computer viruses and hacking will never ever go away. All we can do is follow the advice of the “good guys” and protect ourselves as much as possible from falling victim to the “bad guys”!
And by maintaining regular Back Ups of our important documents and files, we will always be able to restore them should the very worst happen.
If you have any questions about your website security then please do get in touch.