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NHS cyber attack: The real truth behind the Ransomware attack

NHS hit by state of the art cyber attack

This headline sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? How about if it read “ NHS cyber attack: criminals successfully hack out of date hardware and unpatched software”. Would that have had the same impact? Probably not. However, that is exactly what has happened. Ransomware is not new, nor do you need to have 10+ years hacking experience to deploy the required software. In fact, you can buy this cyber attack for as little as £6 on the Dark Web.

We often discuss the perils of Ransomware in our office and the fact many companies dismiss all warnings or suggestions until they have been hit. The classic “it will never happen to me” syndrome. We are not alone in our thinking, having attended many industry events and cybersecurity talks the whole MSP industry is in agreeance. Crypto strains of Ransomware are here to stay – locky, cryzip or WannaCry all need to be taken extremely seriously.

Companies had little choice but to pay!

The original strain of this cyber attack was called Cryptolocker and was rife in 2013, but was stopped in 2014. It did exactly as the name suggests; encrypts and locks all your files forcing you to pay the bitcoin ransom to retrieve your files. With no way to decrypt the files, some companies had little choice but to pay. Even then, there was no guarantee that the cyber-criminal would honour their word and release the data. The most reliable way to recover from such an attack is by restoring all uninfected data, which leads to days’ worth of work being lost.

As you can imagine since 2013, computer systems have come a long way, however with that so has Ransomware. The Locky strain, in particular, is incredibly well engineered, encrypting your files and Bitcoin wallets. This, in essence, is stealing your data and your money.

Bitcoin is a currency that is entirely digital, made secure using encryption techniques that allow the verification and transfer of funds. Another huge characteristic of Bitcoin that no one bank controls it. Whilst Bitcoin is anonymous, meaning you don’t need to put your name or address to it they are transparent, which allows people to see exactly where it is stored and how many are stored there. These factors make it perfect for the cybercriminals and users of the dark web.

Are you 100% sure you’re protecting your business from these attacks? Well in short: no. So, what can you do to prevent yourselves from being the next NHS cyber attack? Firstly, make sure that all workstations are in a currently up to date lifecycle from Microsoft. The NHS had numerous Windows XP machines still on the network which support and patches ended for on April 8th 2014. Although, even with the latest version of Windows you need to make sure that all critical and important patches for all software is current and up to date.

Cyber attacks will bring your network to its knees within minutes!

One of the most important factors to consider is human interaction. No matter how strong your firewall, spam filter or systems are it just takes one employee to open a single rogue email that has slipped through the net to bring your network to its knees within minutes. Being vigilant with emails is important and the chances are didn’t win an iTunes voucher you didn’t apply for. If you ever have the slightest doubt, then always double check. Ideally, by forwarding to your Managed Service Provider to check and test suspicious emails.

We have seen attempts and instances of ‘Cryptovirus’ increasing over the last 3 years and have dealt with a few different variants, we have got every customer fully back up and running within one business day without paying a single ransom. This is due to having a robust backup system in line with a strong spam filter and limiting admin rights for local users, which protects heavily against events like the NHS cyber attack.

If you are having concerns about your IT systems or just simply want to chat more about the woes of the NHS cyber attack please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01933 426162 or visit our website below to book an appointment.