SPOKANE, Wash. – Countries around the world are working to get to the bottom of the latest cyber-attack. The attack struck thousands of computers with ransomware, a software that locks down all data until a ransom is paid.
KREM 2 On Your Side spoke with Karen Thurston, a local cyber security expert from the University of Idaho, who gave tips for how to stay as safe as possible in the digital age.
Thurston said prevention is always the best policy.
First, make sure computers are up-to-date with the latest software and security updates. Thurston said to pay attention to the reminders that pop up on your screen and avoid hitting the “remind me later” button. According to Thurston, the latest cyber-attack targeted PCs running older versions of Windows.
Thurston said Mac users are less likely to be hacked, but not immune.
Second, ensure computers are equipped with anti-virus software if you are connected to the internet. Thurston said this is a great reminder to back up the data on your computer, so cyber-attackers cannot hold your data ransom.
Lastly, if you find yourself watching your computer screen as it is taken hostage by attackers, follow these three steps.
1. Disconnect form the internet either by unplugging the Ethernet cord or disconnecting from Wi-Fi on your machine.
“It’s probably already on your machine, but what that does is it prevents your data from leaving your machine and maybe being used on the black market,” said Thurston.
2. Power off your machine completely.
“Maybe it hasn’t finished encrypting all your files, so that never hurts,” said Thurston.
3. Call for help. If you work for a company with IT, let them know immediately, so they can try to isolate the problem from impacting your coworkers. You can also call tech support or take it into a shop.
“It’s really hitting all levels, so swallow your pride a little, ask for help. But, beforehand is always better if you can,” said Thurston.