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WannaCry – a new corporate hostage issue

  • Written by 

An unprecedented wave of ransomware infections is hitting organizations in all industries around the world. Hospitals over the weekend were held ‘ransom” to this virus and were forced into a position where they were unable to operate at all.

  The culprit: the WannaCry/WCry ransomware. You may not be an organisation but any private user with a laptop or cell-phone is vulnerable – you have to be incredibly cautious!

Ransomware is a type of malware (computer virus)  that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system’s screen or by locking the users’ files - unless a ransom is paid. 

More modern ransomware encrypts certain file types on infected systems and forces users to pay the ransom through certain online payment methods to get a decrypt key. Ransom prices vary. 

Thanks to the perceived anonymity offered by cryptocurrencies, ransomware operators commonly specify ransom payments in bitcoins. 

Currently for this ransomware the ‘hijackers’ are demanding payment in bitcoin. One bitcoin will cost a South African just under R23 000.00!

Recent ransomware variants have also listed alternative payment options such as iTunes and Amazon gift cards. 

Organisations that are held ransom in this way feel they are left with little choice but to pay to have their files released, however paying the ransom does not guarantee that users will get the decryption key or unlock tool required to regain access to the infected system or hostaged files.

Users may encounter this threat through a variety of means. 

Ransomware can be downloaded onto systems when unwitting users visit malicious or compromised websites. 

Some ransomware are known to be delivered as attachments from spammed email, downloaded from malicious pages through malvertisements, or dropped onto vulnerable systems. 

Using sites that promote illegal activity such as copyright infringements of music and movies, makes the user particularly vulnerable to viruses.

Ransomware can either lock the computer screen, or, in the case of crypto-ransomware, encrypt certain vital files. In the first case, a full-screen image or notification is displayed on the infected system’s screen, which prevents victims from using their system. 

This also shows the instructions on how users can pay for the ransom.  The second type of ransomware prevents access to files to potentially critical or valuable files like documents and spreadsheets. 

Be wary also of FAKEAV which will  encourage the user to purchase bogus antivirus software.

So what do we do with this information? “At Boston City Campus & Business College we see a career opportunity!”. So says Ian Becker of the Higher Education Division at Boston. 

“Consider that this type of virus brings new ways and more opportunities for people to earn money anonymously in huge amounts, without having to really ever work a day. “This attack of virus ware will not end, it will get worse”, says Becker. 

“So we have to learn to protect ourselves. Boston has specific and broader Information Technology courses that will provide organisations with skilled personnel to protect their resources”. 

Becker recommends specifically the Security Technician Administrator qualification for these skills. 

Computer Security Specialists help plan, coordinate, and implement the organization’s information security. 

These workers educate users about computer security, install security software, monitor networks for security breaches, respond to cyber attacks, and in some cases, gather data and evidence to be used in prosecuting cyber crime. 

The responsibilities of Computer Security Specialists have increased in recent years as cyber attacks have become more common.

What type of person do you need to be? Becker recommends that  Security Specialist Technicians must have strong problem-solving, analytical, and communication skills, troubleshooting and a sense of logic!

 The constant interaction with other personnel, customers, and employees requires Security specialists to communicate effectively on paper, via email, over the phone, and in person. 

Strong writing skills are useful in preparing manuals for employees and customers.

How to avoid being infected: “If you do not personally know the sender of an email, do not open it”, says Becker. 

“When you get a call to say that Microsoft has identified a problem on your computer and you must log in so they can solve it for you –hang up! Do not open attachments with strange names, and always be on the lookout for strange items in the subject line.

 Trust me – you have not won 1 million pounds in the UK lotto.”

Contact Boston on 011 551-2000, 

e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

visit www.boston.co.za, or Facebook. 

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