A massive ransomware campaign hit computer systems of hundreds of private companies and public organizations across the globe – which is believed to be the most massive ransomware delivery campaign to date.
The Ransomware in question has been identified as a variant of ransomware known as WannaCry (also known as ‘Wana Decrypt0r,’ ‘WannaCryptor’ or ‘WCRY’).
What is WannaCry?
Generally, WannaCry comes in two parts. First, it’s an exploit whose purposes are infection and propagation. The second part is an encryptor that is downloaded to a computer after it has been infected.
The first part is the main difference between WannaCry and the majority of encryptors. To infect a computer with a common encryptor, a user has to make a mistake, for example by clicking a suspicious link, allowing Word to run a malicious macro, or downloading a suspicious attachment from an e-mail message. A system can be infected with WannaCry without the user doing anything.
The vulnerability used in this attack (code named EternalBlue) was among those leaked by the Shadow Brokers group. The vulnerability was exploited to drop a file on the vulnerable system, which would then be executed as a service. This would then drop the actual ransomware file onto the affected system, encrypting files with the .WNCRY extension. (A separate component file for displaying the ransom note would also be dropped.) Files with a total of 176 extensions, including those commonly used by Microsoft Office, databases, file archives, multimedia files, and various programming languages.
If WannaCry/Wcry entered an organization’s network, it could spread within it very rapidly. Any machine or network that has exposed port 445 to the internet is at risk as well. EternalBlue exploit works over the Internet without requiring any user interaction.
How widespread is the damage?
The attack has been found in 150 countries, affecting 200,000 computers, according to Europol, the European law enforcement agency. FedEx, Nissan, and the United Kingdom’s National Health Service were among the victims.
What is the killswitch?
The worm-spreading part of the WannaCry – which is designed to infect other computers — has a special check at the beginning. It tries to connect to a hardcoded website on the Internet and if the connection FAILS, it continues with the attack. If the connection WORKS, it exits. Thus, by registering this domain and pointing it to a sinkhole server, a researcher from the U.K. successfully slowed the spread of the worm.
On the one hand, it does stop further spread of the infection. However, only if the worm is able to connect to the Internet. Many corporate networks have firewalls blocking internet connections unless a proxy is used. For these, the worm will continue to spread in the local network. On the other hand, there is nothing stopping the attackers from releasing a new variant that does not implement a killswitch.
The second domain was sinkholed by Matt Suiche of Comae Technologies, who reported stopping about 10,000 infections from spreading further:
We should thank below given people for saving millions of computers from getting hacked:
- MalwareTech— very skilled 22-years-old malware hunter (Marcus Hutchins) who first discovered that here’s a kill-switch, which if used could stop ongoing ransomware attack.
- Matthieu Suiche— security researcher who discovered the second kill-switch domain in a WannaCry variant and prevent nearly 10,000 computers from getting hacked.
- Costin Raiu— security researcher from Kaspersky Lab, who first found out that there are more WannaCry variants in the wild, created by different hacking groups, with no kill-switch ability.
Multiple security researchers have claimed that there are more samples of WannaCry out there, with different ‘kill-switch’ domains and without any kill-switch function, continuing to infect unpatched computers worldwide.
How to Protect Yourself from WannaCry Ransomware?
Here are some simple tips you should always follow because most computer viruses make their ways into your systems due to lack of simple security practices:
1. Always Install Security Updates
If you are using any version of Windows, except Windows 10, with SMB protocol enabled, make sure your computer should always receive updates automatically from the Microsoft, and it’s up-to-date always.
2. Patch SMB (Server Message Block) Vulnerability
Since WannaCry has been exploiting a critical SMB remote code execution vulnerability (CVE-2017-0148) for which Microsoft has already released a patch (MS17-010) in the month of March, you are advised to ensure your system has installed those patches.
Moreover, Microsoft has been very generous to its users in this difficult time that the company has even released the SMB patches (download from here) for its unsupported versions of Windows as well, including Windows XP, Vista, 8, Server 2003 and 2008.
Note: If you are using Windows 10, you are not vulnerable to SMB vulnerability.
3. Disable SMB
Even if you have installed the patches, you are advised to disable Server Message Block version 1 (SMBv1) protocol, which is enabled by default on Windows, to prevent against WannaCry ransomware attacks.
Here’s the list of simple steps you can follow to disable SMBv1:
- Go to Windows’ Control Panel and open ‘Programs.’
- Open ‘Features’ under Programs and click ‘Turn Windows Features on and off.’
- Now, scroll down to find ‘SMB 1.0/CIFS File Sharing Support’ and uncheck it.
- Then click OK, close the control Panel, and restart the computer.
4. Enable Firewall & Block SMB Ports
Always keep your firewall enabled, and if you need to keep SMBv1 enabled, then just modify your firewall configurations to block access to SMB ports over the Internet. The protocol operates on TCP ports 137, 139, and 445, and over UDP ports 137 and 138.
5. Use an Antivirus Program
An evergreen solution to prevent against most threats is to use a good antivirus software from a reputable vendor and always keep it up-to-date.
Almost all antivirus vendors have already added detection capability to block WannaCry, as well as to prevent the secret installations from malicious applications in the background.
6. Be Suspicious of Emails, Websites, and Apps
Unlike WannaCry, most ransomware spread through phishing emails, malicious adverts on websites, and third-party apps and programs.
So, you should always exercise caution when opening uninvited documents sent over an email and clicking on links inside those documents unless verifying the source to safeguard against such ransomware infection.
Also, never download any app from third-party sources, and read reviews even before installing apps from official stores.
7. Regular Backup your Files:
To always have a tight grip on all your important documents and files, keep a good backup routine in place that makes their copies to an external storage device which is not always connected to your computer.
That way, if any ransomware infects you, it cannot encrypt your backups.
8. Keep Your Knowledge Up-to-Date
There’s not a single day that goes without any report on cyber-attacks and vulnerabilities in popular software and services, such as Android, iOS, Windows, Linux and Mac Computers as well.
So, it’s high time for users of any domain to follow day-to-day happening of the cyber world, which would not only help them to keep their knowledge up-to-date but also prevent against even sophisticated cyber-attacks.
What to do if WannaCry infects you?
If WannaCry ransomware has infected you, you can’t decrypt your files until you pay a ransom money to the hackers and get a secret key to unlock your file.
Never Pay the Ransom:
It’s up to the affected organizations and individuals to decide whether or not to pay the ransom, depending upon the importance of their files locked by the ransomware.
But before making any final decision, just keep in mind: there’s no guarantee that even after paying the ransom, you would regain control of your files.
Moreover, paying ransom also encourages cyber criminals to come up with similar threats and extort money from the larger audience.
So, sure shot advice to all users is — Don’t Pay the Ransom.
“Given the high profile of the original attack, it’s going to be no surprise at all to see copycat attacks from others, and perhaps other attempts to infect even more computers from the original WannaCry gang. The message is simple: Patch your computers, harden your defences, run a decent anti-virus, and – for goodness sake – ensure that you have secure backups.” Cyber security expert Graham Cluley told The Hacker News.