A malicious ransomware software known as WannaCry has recently infected more than 200,000 computer systems across multiple nations, forcing users to pay the equivalent of $300 in the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, before users regain access to their files.
The ransomware reportedly infects systems through a series of phishing emails, which tricks users into providing sensitive information under false pretenses, such as fake websites that appear legitimate.
In response to the wave of attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a series of recommendations for users to protect themselves against additional attacks. Some of the recommendations include updating systems to include the latest patches and software updates, not clicking or downloading unfamiliar links or files in emails, and backing up data to prevent possible losses.
“We are actively sharing information related to this event and stand ready to lend technical support and assistance as needed to our partners, both in the United States and internationally,” the department said in a statement. “DHS has a cadre of cybersecurity professionals that can provide expertise and support to critical infrastructure entities.”
Microsoft recently released a patch that reportedly addresses system vulnerabilities against potential WannaCry attacks, which DHS has since recommended that users install in their own computers.
U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus, said while the incident was ongoing, he was thus far been impressed by the information sharing between security researchers, governments, and affected organizations.
“WannaCry is an international security challenge, and it demonstrates the vulnerabilities all connected countries share on the Internet,” Langevin said. “Law enforcement agencies around the world must work together swiftly to bring the perpetrators to justice.”