Virus and Ransomware Information

Following the infection of the NHS systems this week, we thought it would be helpful to post some information about this along with some answers to your questions.

What is ransomware?
This is a type of computer virus that when it gets onto your system, searches for your documents, photos, music and other personal files. It then encrypts these files and sends the decryption key to an online server. A message is then put up on your system that holds you to a ransom for the key to your files.

Was the NHS targeted by hackers?
No. There is no reason to believe this. It was just bad luck that their systems where affected and because of the vastly interconnected nature of the NHS computer network, it made it easy for the virus to spread quickly though.

It my patient data now available to criminals?
While nobody can be 100% sure to this answer, there is no reason to believe this is the case. The infection just encrypts data and sends the decryption key to these files to the criminals. The actual data is not sent to the criminals in a encrypted or clear format. The NHS should be able to confirm this in time.

How can I protect myself?
Make sure your system is up to date with the latest security updates for the operating system. Have up to date, active good quality anti-virus protection installed.
More importantly than anything else, ensure that you have an up to date backup of all your important files. This must be stored somewhere other than on your PC. For example, a USB memory stick, CD/DVD or online backup service.
While you can never be 100% protected, having an up to date backup will make sure that you can be up and running very quickly if you are unlucky enough to get infected.

Can I recover my files without paying the ransom?
Usually yes. We would never recommend paying the ransom as there is no guarantee that you will receive a decryption key for your files even if you pay it.
The easiest, cheapest and most reliable way of getting your files back is to restore them from your most recent backup. This is obviously reliant on you having backups in the first place.
If you do not have backups and have been infected, there can sometimes be ways to recover the files. Stop using the system as soon as possible and contact us for assistance. The longer you continue using your system, the more it reduces the chances of data recovery.

Why are backups so important?
Backups are the best way to recover your data in the event of a virus infection. It will also protect you against data loss if you have a hard drive failure, data corruption, theft or other damage to your system. It is important that backups are taken regularly and are stored away from your system.

Why are ransoms demanded in bitcoins?
Bitcoin is an online, international currency. It is not bad in any way and has a lot of positive benefits to its use but because it is anonymous to use and transfer money, it is easier for criminals to receive money without being easily tracked.

Should I turn off my system/router until this is all resolved?
While turning off your system will stop it being infected, it isn't going to be that helpful to you or your business. It will also prevent your operating system and anti-virus from being able to update itself.
Our advice is to backup your files and check your automatic updates are enabled for both your operating system and your anti-virus.
Then use your system as normal and be extra careful when opening email links and downloading files. Remember that emails from friends and family might also be infected.
Your system is always at risk and will continue to be after this has blown over. The media has obviously reported this extensively because it has hit such a high profile target, but this unfortunately is not a one off.

I still use Windows XP. Am I more at risk?
The simple answer is yes. You are more at risk as the operating system no longer receives security updates from Microsoft.
That said, Microsoft have released an update for Windows XP to help patch against this attack. Also, systems newer than Windows XP have been infected and are by no means immune from infection.

I use a MAC/Tablet/Linux system. Am I immune?
No, not at all. While this attack is primarily against Windows systems, other operating systems are always vulnerable to viruses. Many believe that viruses are just a Windows problem but this not the case. Even if it was true, hard drives and flash memory on any device can fail without giving any notice so backups are just as important.

If you have any further questions, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

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