The most effective defense against the “Wanna Cry” global cyber attack is to update operating systems, install software updates and be on high alert for suspicious emails.
“Awareness campaigns are crucial and companies must invest in these to make sure their employees are aware of threats and that they are aware and implement company policies in regards to information security,” says cyber security expert Dr Aleksandar Valjarevic. Valjarevic is the head of professional services at LAWtrust, Africa’s leading expert on cybersecurity.
Over the weekend “Wanna Cry”, described as one of the largest ever ransomware cyber attacks, locked up over 200 000 computers in more than 150 countries in an attack EU law enforcement agency Europol called “unprecedented”.
Valjarevic says while there have been no “official reports” of South Africans being affected by “Wanna Cry”, “given the size of the attack it is highly likely that South African companies have fallen victim”.
Valjarevic says updating operating systems and software could have helped mitigate the damage.
“The most important thing is to install all of the updates that are sent to users, not just on operating systems but for all software that is being used,” he says.
“The usual requirements of needing antivirus and firewalls are necessary but are not enough to provide full protection. An in-depth, layered, approach to information security is needed, that addresses people, processes and technology. This should include user training, strengthening and improving company policies and deploying technology in the areas of email protection, access control, data encryption, data backup and recovery.”.
“Software vendors are always working to keep software up to date and safe from being compromised. So there could be a fault in the software that gets picked up either by a hacker or by the company and once it is fixed users will get an alert to install the update. The update has the fix in it, if these updates are ignored the weaknesses remain making machines vulnerable to attack.” add Valjarevic.
Valjarevic further advised employees and individuals to “not open emails from senders that you don’t recognise, and if you do, or view the message in a preview format, under no circumstances click on any links and fill in any information that may be demanded”.
He says antivirus protection and firewalls do not provide full protection.
“Make sure the data backup system is in place and that the recovery plan is in place so that even if you become a victim to a ransomware attack you are able to control the situation and restore your data,” Valjarevic advises. “Encrypting data is another layer of protection that makes it useless anyone who has stolen it.”