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Large-scale cyber-attack: here’s how to keep your data secure

The WannaCrypt ransomware recently attracted much attention from the media when it attacked a number of major IT structures, including 16 hospitals in the UK and a Spanish telecoms operator.

Security failure in Windows

The malware in question exploits a weakness in old versions of Microsoft Windows, which are no longer updated (Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 8), so that it spreads in a local network to other computers – even if those machines aren’t connected to the Internet.

The fault had already been patched last March in the versions of Windows that are still receiving security upgrades (including Windows 7, 8.1 and 10). But for those versions no longer supported, Microsoft hurried out a patch on 15th May to stop WannaCrypt from spreading.

How can I protect my data?

Your biggest ally in terms of online security is you yourself. Follow these three golden rules to stay safe.

  • Think twice before opening an attachment or clicking on a link in an e-mail. If you know the sender, contact them first to confirm that the e-mail is authentic. Fake e-mails that spread ransomware can appear absolutely genuine.
  • Always install security updates in your device. If your software has any chinks in its security armour, even your antivirus program will be unable to protect you.
  • Make regular backups of your data. Store at least one copy on some form of physical medium (such as an external hard drive) disconnected from the Internet. That way you will still have your data if your system is attacked.

What should I do if I've been affected?

Have you been affected by WannaCrypt ? The "Computer Crime Unit" of the Belgian federal police is asking victims to come forward. To lodge a complaint, please send an email to avisderecherche@police.belgium.eu or contact your local police office.

In Belgium, six victims have already been identified. But according to the police, it is only the tip of the iceberg.