You may or may not be aware of this worldwide cyber attack but it is a nasty one that can affect any Windows based computer on the internet. This can include versions of Windows running on Macs under Boot Camp or virtual machine versions such as Parallels or VM Fusion.
What happens with this attack is all the files on an infected machine will become encrypted and inaccessible to the user. This includes all your personal data such as photos, videos, documents, financial files such as QuickBooks, etc.
Once you are infected you will receive a pop-up demanding you pay a ransom, thus the name ransomware, to the people responsible for the attack. In return for the payment, in theory, you will be sent a key to decrypt the files. Of course giving criminals your credit card number in the hopes they honor their promise and don’t do anything else with your credit card info is dicey at best.
The extra nasty thing about this ransomware is that you don’t have to do anything to get attacked. So it doesn’t come from something like opening an email attachment. It can affect any computer on a network that has not run it’s Microsoft Windows updates since March 2017. That network can be the Internet. So basically it can affect almost everyone.
Microsoft found the vulnerability this attack takes advantage of several months ago. They released an update in March to protect users against it. However not everyone runs their updates regularly. And some people, I’m talking to you Windows XP users, are still running an operating system that is no longer supported and likely will never be protected against this attack.
Protecting yourself is simple. Just run your Windows updates. Below are some links to sites that show you how to run these updates to protect your yourself, your business, and your less techy loved ones.
how to run Windows updates in Windows Vista/Windows 7
how to run Windows updates in Windows 8
how to run Windows updates in Windows 10
If you are still running an Windows XP computer now is the time to retire it or, at the very least, disconnect it from the internet and use it for non-online tasks only. Mac OS based computers are note affected, unless as noted above they are also running some version Windows too.