On Friday 12th May, 2017 a malware virus known as the Wanna Decryptor or WannaCry malware viruses caused massive disruption around the world.  It affected over 10,000 organizations and 200,000 individuals in 150 countries.  In the U.K., the NHS was one organisation hit, leading to major incident procedures having to be implemented.  Large numbers of NHS computers were affected across NHS trusts and Doctors surgeries which meant their staff could not access vital data.

This article is for the benefit of our Okappy job management customers, it explains how the virus could hit you, what happens if it does and the potential extent of the damage (your data held on the Okappy platform would not be affected in the worse case that your computers were affected).

What is malware?

Malware is malicious software that you download to your computer in most cases unwittingly. Once downloaded, it hides itself and then waits until ready to activate.  When it is activated it causes damage to your computer by locking you out, causing your computers to become unstable and ultimately unusable, deleting files or in the case of this virus encrypting all your files so that you cannot access them until you have payed a ransom.  Hence why this strain of virus is also known as ransomware.  Once the ransom has been paid (most likely with Bitcoins) then if you're lucky, the criminal behind the ransomware will provide a key so that you can decrypt your files and access them again.

How do your computers get infected?

Computers are at risk from infection when you, or someone in your company, clicks on a link or attachment in an email or navigates to a website which contains  malware software which you then install and download.

The virus could often be hidden in a CV from someone pretending to be a prospective employer or even disguised as an email from HMRC.
The problem for small companies is that it only takes one person in your company to click on the link and all the computers in your company can be affected.  Once the malware is on any computer on your network then it will try and install itself onto any other computers it can find.  This is the reason why viruses spread.

What is the extent of the damage?

In the case of the Wanna Decryptor or WannaCry malware virus, if it is installed, then all the files on your network will be encrypted which will render them inaccessible until you have the encryption key.  This could include backups held on drives such as Dropbox or files stored on google drive.

If you are using cloud based software such as Okappy then job, invoice or customer data would not be affected as it is not physically stored as files on your computer and therefore would not be encrypted by the malware.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Ensure you and your employees don't click on any links without first knowing what those links are.  Don't click on attachments in emails including zip files, executable files or even images or documents unless you were expecting that file.

Even if someone you know sends you an email with attachments or links, be cautious as emails can be spoofed. If you are not sure, confirm the email is legitimate by calling the person who sent the email (don't just reply to the email).

Secondly, it is really important to keep your software up-to-date.  Malware and viruses will target weakness in your software. Vendors such as Microsoft work hard to update their software and close weaknesses as soon as they are aware of them.  Once fixed, they release a "patch" which you use to apply the fix to your own computer. If you don't keep your software up-to-date then you won't get these patches and you will still be vulnerable.

If you are using Microsoft Windows, install the patch that Microsoft released to block the specific exploit that the WannaCry ransomware is using. You can find instructions on the Microsoft Knowledge Base. You can also directly download the patches for Windows from the Microsoft Update Catalog.

Keep your virus protection software up-to-date.

Back up regularly, and ensure you maintain offline backups.

Consider cloud based software and ensure you use it to the fullest.

In the past people often felt that cloud based software was less secure.  However, companies offering cloud services, including Okappy, spend considerable time and resources monitoring their systems, monitoring the latest threats and ensuring they stay one step ahead.   Companies, and in particular small to medium sizes businesses often don't have these resources or expertise which unfortunately means their in-house computers are now more likely to be the weakest link.
Even when customers are using cloud based software we find they often still save documents as pdfs or rely on emails archived on their local computers as way to keep a backup.  Unfortunately however, these files would be still be impacted by malware software such as the Wanna Decryptor or WannaCry virus.

Sending Pdfs or emails to your customers rather than using the benefits of the Okappy network means that files are stored as physical files on you or your customers computers.  These files are at risk of being encrypted or deleted by malicious software.  Email, in particularly, is one of the major ways in which viruses spread and is one of the reasons why we developed the Okappy network.

I use Macs, am I still at risk?

The Wanna Decryptor or WannaCry malware virus targets a specific weakness in the Microsoft Windows Operating System so in this case, you should not be affected. However, if you have both Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac computers on your network which share files stored in the same location such as a network drive or Dropbox, then those files could still be affected and inaccessible to all your computers.

In general, Apple Macs are typically more secure than Microsoft Windows computers for a number of reasons.  The design of the Apple Mac Operating System is generally more secure although we are starting to see viruses and malware attacks on Apple Computers as well.

Historically Apple has had a much smaller market share than Microsoft which means it is more profitable for criminals to go after Microsoft Windows computers rather than Apple Macs. In addition, Apple Mac users tend to update their software more frequently and have the latests software whereas a large proportion of Microsoft Users still remain on old versions of the software including Windows XP and Windows Vista as well as old browsers such as Internet Explorer.

For more information

For more information about this particular malware see this BBC article for a general overview or for specific guidance, check out Microsoft's guidance.

If you have any questions don't hesitate to contact us.

Be the first to hear

Leave your email below to stay up to date with our latest tips, tricks and trends on all things business?