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6 Things to Know About the 'WannaCry' Ransomware Attack

Ransomware is a term that we will be hearing more about, and 2017 will go down as the year with the highest number of attacks. Here are some things you need to know about it:

1. What is ransomware?

The term ransomware refers to malicious software that infects or locks a computer, preventing access to files. It then plays a message demanding that a ransom be paid to fix it. Most often the malicious software encrypts important files, making them unreadable, and often locks the computer. Once a ransom is paid, the criminal will offer to decrypt the files and return the computer to its normal state. The attack can come from opening an email attachment or clicking on a link.

2. What is the WannaCry attack that everyone's talking about?

The most recent ransomware attack occurred this past Friday and continues into this week. Named WannaCry (also known as WannaCrypt), the ransomware has infected computers in hospitals, businesses, and homes. Last week most of the intrusions were in Europe, with some in the U.S., and this week it’s spread to Asia, affecting about 200,000 computers (and climbing).

The WannaCry attack took over computer systems, caused them to freeze, and displayed the message, “Oops, your files have been encrypted!” It asked for a ransom payment of $300 in bitcoin to unlock the computer. The problem has affected organizations and individuals running Windows XP, an older version of Windows that had some security faults that the ransomware exploited.