- WannaCry (or WannaCrypt, WanaCrypt0r 2.0, Wanna Decryptor) is a ransomware program targeting Microsoft Windows operating system.
- On Friday, 12 May 2017, a large cyber-attack using it was launched, infecting more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries, demanding ransom payments in the cryptocurrency bitcoin in 28 languages.
- Cybercriminals are beginning to take notice of the numerous vulnerabilities present in Africa’s digital ecosystem and are innovatively exploiting the numerous loopholes within the continents digital technologies.
A new and adverse form of malware
A new and adverse form of malware has taken the world by storm. Riding on the ubiquitous nature of the Windows OS in PCs, the WannaCry ransomware program (detected by ESET as Win32/Filecoder.WannaCryptor.D) has put most cybersecurity executives in tears as it has ploughed through various organisations on an unprecedented scale.
The African digital ecosystem has not been spared either. WannaCryptor has hit numerous institutions throughout the Continent. The nations which were adversely hit include: Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria.
On the 13th of May 2017, the Communications Authority of Kenya in conjunction with the National Kenya Computer Incident Response Team Coordination Center (National KE-CIRT/CC) issued a press statement alerting members of the public of the presence of the WannaCrypt0r ransomware epidemic throughout the globe.
As predicted, cybercriminals are beginning to take notice of the numerous vulnerabilities present in Africa’s digital ecosystem and are innovatively exploiting the numerous loopholes within our digital technologies.
WannaCry (or WannaCrypt, WanaCrypt0r 2.0, Wanna Decryptor) is a ransomware program targeting Microsoft Windows operating system.
On Friday, 12 May 2017, a large cyber-attack using it was launched, infecting more than 230,000 computers in 150 countries, demanding ransom payments in the cryptocurrency bitcoin in 28 languages.
The attack spreads by multiple methods, including phishing emails and on unpatched systems as a computer worm.
The attack has been described by Europol as unprecedented in scale.
WannaCrypt0r uses the EternalBlue exploit, which was developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to attack computers running Microsoft Windows operating systems.
Although a patch to remove the underlying vulnerability for supported systems (Windows Vista and later operating systems) had been issued on 14 March 2017, delays in applying security updates has left numerous users vulnerable.
Does your machine run on Windows?
The Windows Operating System remains the main operating system which runs on laptops and desktops in Africa.
With negligible usage over mobile phones in Africa, the Windows OS maintains a significant 35% usage statistic in our continent as over 80% of enterprise devices run on the Windows OS.
This essentially means that if you are a Kenyan reading this article on a Personal Computer or laptop, then there exists an over 80% chance that it is running on Windows.
This, coupled up by the immense chance that the Windows Operating System your device is running on is not updated, increases your vulnerability to the Wannacrypt0r ransomware even further.
What you need to do to stay safe
According to ESET’s Michael Aguilar, here are some tips which we strongly recommend:
- Install Anti-malware Software – You may have heard this over and over, and it seems very repetitive mentioning it now. However, if we had not encountered multiple instances where I was told, “It is a server, and we have firewalls, so I will leave anti-malware off of this machine” or “I have too many problems to install antivirus on this server”, We would not mention it. But, that has happened. So, we are stating it. Please install reputable anti-malware and give yourself a fighting chance at stopping this before you are affected.
- Update Your Windows Machines – Please! I know that patches can be very, very difficult to get deployed across the entire network. This one, you will want to install. It has been available since mid-April and stops the exploit from gaining a foothold in your environment. The patch listing for the entire listing of Equation Group files can be located here.
- Be Intelligent! – As a person who researches infections, exploits and various other information security related items, knowing is half the battle. Especially when items are being leaked and created in this kind of rapid-fire fashion. Using Threat Intelligence, ESET was able to create the appropriate YARA rules that identified the droppers, files and characteristics pertaining to the Equation Groups leaked exploitation files. There has been plenty of detections of these object.. This kind of intel, and more importantly, the feeds that are provided, could help you to make better decisions on what to protect and how to protect it.
It is important for institutions to invest in reputable malware protection products. As an example, ESET’s network protection module was already blocking attempts to exploit the leaked vulnerability at the network level before this particular malware was even created. ESET increased the protection level for this specific threat before the exploit was utilised.
Sometimes, investment in technology is not enough. Despite the immense investments in cybersecurity tech, employees remain the weakest link in an organisation’s cybersecurity environment. It costs little more than a cup of coffee to effect security awareness training for a single employee and saving the face of your organisation in the modern, digital world.
In many ways, the ubiquitous growth of Wannadecrypt0r in the modern digital age may serve as an unforgettable lesson for Kenyans; that cybersecurity is not a priority just for the Mzungu, but the Mwananchi as well.