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Local experts provide ways to protect yourself from ransomware attack

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - In the wake of the "WannaCry" ransomware attack that has affected hundreds of thousands of computers around the world, experts are renewing the call for people to be vigilant about their use of technology and to protect themselves.

"These types of attacks are probably going to become more common especially since computers are almost everywhere now," Andrew Hacker, a cybersecurity expert and professor at Harrisburg University, said.

Some of the critical ways to ensure your computer's security include making sure your computer stays updated with patches for your operating system and not opening or downloading attachments from sources you cannot trust.

"WannaCry" is particularly dangerous because it goes beyond what most ransomware does.

"The malware installs itself on the computer, it goes and tracks down your files, encrypts, but then also spreads via network, so if you're in a corporate network, if one machine gets infected, it actually goes out and actively searches for other computers on the network to infect as well," Hacker said.

A developer identified a 'kill switch' in the source code of the ransomware, rendering it ineffective, but the concern is that will only slow the attack rather than stop it.

"There's already new variants out there that are using these same methodology, that are using this same patch, that, if unpatched, you are open to the latest variants," Scott Davis, with IntermixIT in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County, said.

Other methods of protection include acquiring anti-virus software and downloading the latest virus definitions, or for businesses with firewalls, making sure those stay up-to-date.

Making copies of your files is especially critical.

"The most important is back up, because if you do not back up, you are put in a situation where you're forced to pay the ransom," Davis said.