A screenshot of a WannaCry ransomware demand. It struck more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries. REUTERS PIC

THE recent WannaCry ransomware attack left the world in a frantic mode. The worldwide massive cyberattack on computers running Microsoft Windows operating system reportedly struck more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries. Russia and the United Kingdom were said to be among the worst-hit.

Cybersecurity firm experts are warning that it can only get worse before it gets better because society has become more reliant on technology than ever before.

Ransomware is a malicious software that locks up victims’ data in electronic gadgets such as computers, tablets or smartphones and threatens to expose the data or delete it until a ransom is paid. It is basically a denial-of-access cyberattack that prevents us from accessing our data.

While there are many forms of ransomware out there, WannaCry is perhaps the most dangerous yet. System analysts traced the root of the ransomware to a Microsoft security patch released in March, so those who had updated their systems with the patch were more likely to be victims of WannaCry. However, it doesn’t stop there because many are still at risk and it’s only a matter of time for WannaCry to spread through the email chain.

Today, it seems that the world is no longer safe anywhere. Real world or virtual, we are just as vulnerable when it comes to safety. Technology has opened up an infinitude Catch-22 situation that we are unable to resolve. We need technology and we definitely cannot live without it but at what cost?

We are indeed held ransom by technology as we continue to become more dependent on it. With the Internet of Things (IoT), the reliance on technology can only increase in the future. We live and breathe technology every second of the day. Even when we sleep, technology in IoT dominates our time. IoT, the next stage of evolution in consumer products, is connectedness. It affects every item, from the toothbrush to the fridge, and the television to the camera that uses wireless protocols to connect.

Though we now think we are protected by fingerprint readers, these are also prone to cyberattacks. If you think your fingerprint is unique, think again. Masterprints, digitally altered fingerprints that work like a master key, have been discovered by researchers for New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. With these masterprints, one can unlock up to 40 per cent of smartphones.

Ransomware is not the only nasty bug on the list. We have experienced trojans, malwares, worms and more in various stages over the years, all created by hackers. As technology evolves, so do these bugs. While we think that these mostly target governments and corporations, think again because any one of us is just as susceptible to hackers. Depending on the intentions of hackers, some may not even want anything in return... just the satisfaction of creating disruption or chaos in people’s lives.

If you are infected by ransomware or malware, the first thing you should do is disconnect your computer from the Internet so it does not infect others. Most of these attacks rely on your connection to spread, so disconnect to end it before it goes viral. Report the crime to law enforcement or cybersecurity experts. Even if you pay the hackers, there’s no guarantee they will unlock or restore your access to your data.

Ransomware is very real and the only way to counter it is to unite, be aware and take precautionary steps to avoid it. Though we can never be really safe from those who misuse technology for their own gain, we need to accept that technology is here to stay. What we can do in the meantime is to take the necessary precautions advised by system experts and be alert at all times. Let’s be safe rather than be sorry!

kushairi@mediaprima.com.my

The writer is editor of BOTs, the weekly tech section in Life&Times. Trained in Maths, he has since
traded his problem-solving skills with writing about how tech has helped to transform the world for the better

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