Recently, the world saw the biggest ever cyber-attack in Internet history. Ransomware named “WannaCry” stormed its way through the World Wide Web, and encrypted the files of thousands of computers throughout the world, thereby rendering all the data useless. In order to regain access to this encrypted information, users are instructed to pay a ransom, otherwise lose that data forever.
“WannaCry” has infected a variety of businesses sectors, health care providers, as well as average citizens. Effects of ransomware to business and health care providers can range anywhere from a minor annoyance to a major disruption of critical services. The effect on the average person is also disruptive but given the integration of computers into family life, they are not just a tool used to create documents and handle personal finances, they are the repositories that store family photos and videos of baby’s first steps.
In order to protect your digital assets, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department wish to give you several tips that may keep you from falling victim to “WannaCry” and other computer viruses:
Make sure you have backup copies of critical files. This is probably the most important thing you can do to fight against ransomware. Most institutions that pay ransomware criminals are those whose only options are pay or live without the data. By having a backup copy (preferably not on the same network and in a separate location) you now have the option of wiping out your computer’s hard drive, reinstalling your operating system, and restoring your critical files. This robs the criminals of power over you and takes away their incentive to continue on to other victims.
Regularly update your operating system, browser, antivirus, and other programs. Culprits tend to exploit vulnerabilities in software to compromise systems. Operating systems as well as most software applications have the ability to automatically check if software updates are available. Consider activating these features and take the time to update them as soon as you know about them.
Don’t run your computer as an administrator. When you run your computer as an administrator, every program you run has unlimited access to your computer. If ransomware or other malicious code finds its way onto your computer, it also gains unlimited access. Consider running your computer under a standard user account as this will limit malicious codes ability to install itself on your computer.
Don’t interact with spam email or email from unknown senders. By clicking links or opening suspicious attachments, you could be inviting ransomware, or other malware, onto your computer. Consider deleting it without opening it.
Avoid suspicious sites and downloads. Web sites that illegally promise free software, music, and movies are often bait to lure in unsuspecting victims.
If you are infected by ransomware or any other virus, disconnect it from your network. This will contain the problem to just one machine and limit its spread throughout your network. Be sure to unplug network cables as well as disable Wi-Fi connections.
If your files get encrypted, don’t pay the ransom. Unless the instant access to some of your files is critical, don’t pay the ransom. Each payment fuels this unlawful business which only prospers as long as people pay money.
If you have additional questions or comments, please call LASD’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau (562) 347-2601.
United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US CERT) – Alerts, Tips & Publications (https://www.us-cert.gov/)
California Attorney General’s Office – Cyber safety (https://oag.ca.gov/cybersafety)
Federal Bureau of Investigation – Cyber Resources (https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber)
Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau, Captain Christopher Cahhal at (562) 946-7201. Or if you wish to remain Anonymous, call “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), use your smartphone by downloading the “P3 Tips” mobile app for FREE or “P3 Mobile” for the hearing impaired, or by using the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.