Experts warn ransomware threat still looms

Experts believe they’ve stopped the spread of a massive ransomware cyber attack that impacted banks, transport systems and even hospitals around the world.

While the WannaCry Ransomware attack has been stopped for now, the threat could morph into something else. Experts say it’s a wake-up call that should lead not only to awareness, but to action.

The WannaCry ransomware attack held hospitals and other large institutions hostage by freezing and encrypting valuable data.

“It actually starts to encrypt all the data and it says if you want your data back, you have to pay a ransom,” expert Mary Frantz explained. “That’s how it got its name for ransomware.”

Frantz owns Enterprise Knowledge Partners in Bloomington. She says WannaCry spread unusually quickly by exploiting vulnerabilities.

“Things like this, you can't always prevent or prepare for,” Frantz said. “This was definitely a vulnerability that was not known.”

Frantz said even though this attack has been stopped, more damaging threats loom.

She advocates that businesses and large organizations have an incident response plan to handle cyber threats.

“Don't wait until you have all your policies written, don't wait until everything's perfect,” Frantz urged. “Have a plan, get out there and practice it as much as possible.”

For the rest of the population, she advocates making sure devices are constantly patched and updated.

She advised those hit by ransomware to not pay the ransom and ensure the systems affected are disconnected or isolated.

“We've had a lot of wake-up calls. This just happens to be a huge wake-up call. The threat's always been out there. This could have happened at anytime.”

Microsoft actually discovered these vulnerabilities weeks ago, and issued a security update. Only, those with older systems never got it.

The company acted quickly to reverse its policy after the attack and is making security fixes available for older Windows systems for everyone.