Ever had one of those awful days you wish would just end? I suspect that is exactly what Friday 12 May 2017 felt like for the NHS as news spread of a security breach on its systems. A ransomware worm burrowed itself into networks across 99 countries, including the UK which the NHS was not prepared to withstand.
The virus entered the network through its file sharing protocol (SMB) and, once in, found itself easily transferred to other computers. Ransomware is designed to infiltrate a system then hold files for ransom, which was potentially a huge concern when no one was sure if it was patient records they had gained access to. In the case of the NHS, screens were locked and changed to give instructions on how to send the criminals bitcoin currency to access the decryptor.
Fortunately, professional security researcher, MalwareTech, was on hand to investigate the global threat and put an end to the attack. With the help of his colleagues, he was able to create a sinkhole to prevent any further damage from the WannaCrypt worm.
The sad fact is though, this could have been prevented. Microsoft had released a security patch for vulnerable systems back in March 2017, which many hospitals and businesses around the world never installed. As a result, they were continuing to use the outdated Windows XP operating system and had left themselves open to the attack.
If the patches had been installed when released, it is quite likely that the problem wouldn’t have grown to this magnitude. The patches may have even prevented disruption to their services and there should have been no reason for so many systems to be taken offline. This is why I push the message about staying on top of your updates for your website. If you leave things to fall behind, you are more likely to put yourself, your website, and your client’s information at risk.
I have previously written a guide to security patches, which is worth a read.