Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

New computer-killing ransomware “Petya” is bad, so what can you do?

It seems like there’s a new form of malware every week, and right now, the big deal is Petya, a nasty little script. So what can you do to stay protected?

Security is perpetually a big deal in our modern world, but when a virus arrives that has the potential to destroy your computer and lock down your livelihood, it’s time more than ever to take things seriously.

And for many people, that time may well be this week, as a new variant of a form of malware that has been around since early last year arrives, here to wreak damage and literally kill a machine.

It’s not often we see viruses or scripts that have the potential to do this, but for we’re not exaggerating this one, as a new variant of the Petya ransomware can not only encrypt your computer’s master boot record, but it can also make the disk hard to read, making it very difficult for people to recover what’s on the drive.

To put that into an easy way of being understood, imagine a file that basically tells your computer where your operating system and important files are stored, because that’s your master boot record, or “MBR”. Every computer has one, and that’s precisely what Petya targets. Where this new variant goes further, however, is to lock down the hard drive, making recovery of other files very, very hard.

Locking down is the part that makes the virus makers money, because you can either have your files encrypted, or you can pay a ransom in order to unlock them, but while ransomware normally encrypts important or regularly used files, this nasty exploit is basically a locking system for your computer and hard drive, pushing that ransom more aggressively.

McAfee’s security team has the proper technical bits and bobs if you’re into that sort of thing, but one of the important things to note about this new variant of Petya is that it’s not being targeted solely at corporations and business, with regular folks also part of the attack pattern.

McAfee told Pickr that the outbreak doesn’t appear to be as serious as the 2017’s other major security scare from WannaCry, but because this is targeting more than just business, we could see a serious number of infections as a result.

“This outbreak does not appear to be as great as WannaCry but the number of impacted organisations is significant,” said McAfee’s Raj Samani.

“It appears that it’s using the same propagation method as WannaCry, at least based on the data we have right now. Anybody running operating systems that have not been patched for the vulnerability WannaCry exploited could be vulnerable to this attack.”

That means if you do have an operating system that hasn’t been patched in recent years, it’s time to do that, ensuring you have your patches.

A security solution is also a recommended measure, and it always will be, with internet security kind of like the toilet paper of the digital world: you know you need it, but it’s never fun to purchase.

Failing that, education is critical here, because like most viruses and ransomware, Petya will transmit over email, meaning if you’re not careful what you download, you may well be infected.

Keep that in mind when you’re reading your emails at home or work, because if someone looks a little fishy or a file is attached, question it and see if you really need to download that file, especially if you have no security solution on your system.

“We must not wait for attacks to happen for us to take precaution,” said Anastasia Para Rae, General Manager of Kaspersky in Australia.

“As part of security strategies, deep research is needed around monitoring, specialist protection tools and response solutions to protect across an entire operation. Also always, stay informed to critical matters such as ransomware,” she said.

Petya is also just the tip of the iceberg, and with ransomware the big category for security exploits because it has the propensity to make cybercriminals so much money

“Australia had the highest ransomware statistics in Q3 last year,” added Kaspersky’s Noushin Shabab.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, the danger level involved in a ransomware attack is 11. Not only does ransomware invade your personal space and privacy, the financial and emotional recovery is detrimental and devastating,” she said.

“I highly encourage everyone to start with the simple steps of not clicking on unknown links and regularly changing your passwords. These tips may sound trivial but saves individuals and business the heartache faced after being attacked by ransomware.”

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