The Daily Shot, Ricochet, May 15, 2017

On [last] Friday, the world was struck by a gigantic cyber attack, probably the biggest in history. It affected more than 230,000 computers in 99 countries. And lest you think this was the doing of those villainous Ruskies, one of the worst hit countries was Russia.

Among those affected were several major corporations and governmental organizations, including Deutsche Bahn, FedEx, Megafon, Nissan, Telefónica, the UK National Health Service, Russian Railways, the Russian Interior Ministry, and the Russian Central Bank.

The computers were infected with a ransomware program called WannaCry. Basically, it locks down the files on an infected computer by encrypting them, then it displays a message saying the only way to get their files back is to send money. In this case, the hackers asked for $300 in bitcoin, and shows a timer that would increase the price if the owner didn’t pony up the cash. (This is what it looked like.) This obviously caused a major disruption across the globe, however apparently the hackers have netted less than $30,000 from this caper.

How was it stopped? By accident. A 22-year-old computer security researcher who goes by the name MalwareTech jammed up the whole thing when, while investigating WannaCry, he registered a specific web domain, which acted as a “kill switch” for the virus.

So what happens now? This thing is still out there, and it’s expected to cause more problems today, as people get to work and turn on their computers. This virus exploited a software loophole in Windows. It’s a known problem and Microsoft released a patch for it back in March. So if you’re behind, you’re going to want to install all Windows updates. If you want to set that up to happen automatically, you can learn how here. But we’re not computer experts, so talk to your IT guy if you have questions.

By the way, if you want to thank somebody for this, WannaCry used something called the EternalBlue exploit, which was worked up by … our own National Security Agency, and released into the world along with other NSA hacking tools back in April. So send your love letters to Uncle Sam.