On Friday, ransomware attacks hit tens of thousands of organizations in what is thought to be the biggest cyberextortion attack recorded, according to a report from The Associated Press.
The attack gained attention from media largely after it impacted National Health Service operations in England. It has hit computer networks across the globe in more than 60 countries. The New York Times reported that FedEx in the United States and telecommunications companies Telefónica in Spain and MegaFon in Russia were affected.
Here are things to know about the ransomware attack.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is malware that locks and disables a user’s computer system and demands ransom in order for the user to regain access to their computer and the files on it. Kurt Baumgartner, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told The AP ransom demands start at $300 and two hours later, increasing to $400, $500 and $600.
How does the ransomware attack happen?
The attack exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was patched in March but not on machines that had not been updated or patched, according to NPR. It then prompts the pop ups that tells the user their files are encrypted and can be unencrypted if they pay ransom money. Once one computer is affected, the malware spreads itself across the network.
How can future attacks be prevented?
Updating computer operating systems when prompted and maintaining up-to-date software is the best bet against ransomware attacks. Many groups were affected by the attacks because machines had not had updated versions of Windows or had versions that Microsoft was no longer offering patches for.