Story highlights

  • The "WannaCry" attack hit computers in at least 150 countries.
  • Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan have been identified as the top targets of the attack.
  • Ransomware is a malicious software that infects computers by locking up and encrypting files, then demands a "ransom" in return for access.
  • Up-to-date software and anti-virus solutions are some ways in which to protect your personal data from a ransomware attack.

The "WannaCry" virus hit computers in at least 150 countries around the world last week, including Russia, the Ukraine and Taiwan. Some called it the beginning of a new era - an era in which hackers have become experts at finding weak spots in our online security.

There was also a kind of dawning realisation of how vulnerable organisations all over the globe are to cybercriminals.

Further to that, with homes and devices also increasingly connected to the internet, the risk of the malicious software known as "ransomware" inflitrating and impacting our daily lives is a lot more likely.

"We need to be aware of the fact that we are more and more interconnected. The internet is no longer contained ... we are more interconnected with third parties that provide our televisions, our fridges, our cars, even ... we need to be aware of this new ecosystem being put in place and apply good practices from a cybersecurity perspective," says Stijn Vande Casteele, the co-founder and CEO of Brussels-based Internet security company Sweepatic.

The WannaCry attack targeted Microsoft's Windows operating system using "ransomware" and blocked access to computer systems, demanding that victims pay money via the crypto currency bitcoin.

The world's biggest software maker was quick to point the finger of blame at the US government. But some experts say Microsoft is accountable too for the way in which it charges for new versions of its software.

"There might be a commercial incentive from the vendor to lure companies into paying for updates," says Casteele. "For critical information infrastructure, the debate should be: if we digitalise more, more information will be put out there, then we need to make sure that privacy and confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information is preserved at all times," the cyber security expert says.

With our lives becoming increasingly connected to the internet, are we likely to see the growth of things such as cyber insurance? How do we even start to put a price on our data? And do governments themselves have to start budgeting to protect their populations from cyber extortion?

Source: Al Jazeera