The worldwide ransomware attack that hit one in five National Health Service organisations last Friday caused near meltdown.
Operations were cancelled, X-rays, test results and patient records became unavailable and phones did not work.

The government held emergency Cobra meetings, code for official panic, and the attack has led to furious political mud-slinging and not without good reason.

There are a few things BullGuard customers should be aware of to assuage any concerns:
  • Many of the NHS trusts were using the Windows XP operating system. This is an old operating system and Microsoft stopped supporting it in 2014.
  • The NHS didn’t extend its support contract with Microsoft for XP because the government didn’t renew the contracts and left it to individual trusts to manage.

This tells you two important things:
  • Using unsupported XP operating systems is like leaving your home for a few months and leaving your house unlocked. At some point someone will notice and will get in.
  • Neither the government nor NHS trusts truly understand the reality and likelihood of cybercrime. If they did the XP operating systems would have been upgraded to more secure versions years ago. There would have been no hesitation in doing so. To use an unprotected operating system when working with sensitive public data is near criminal.
It also raises the question of what type of antivirus protection was being used within the NHS trusts.

There are two main types of antivirus protection:
  • Signature – this identifies known virus signatures and malware files. It discovers a virus it quarantines and deletes it
  • Heuristic – more commonly known as behavioural-based protection this monitors a computer for malicious activity or policy violations.
Signature-based protection is important because there are millions of viruses and malware files zipping around the internet. However, on its own it is not the best defence. Behavioural-based protection is also required.

If ransomware attacks a computer and it has no known signature because it has just been released, the behavioural-based protection will either detect an abnormality in a file and warn you against downloading it or detect that code is encrypting files and stop it.

How to protect yourself against ransomware

We’re tempted to say don’t visit a UK hospital but that’s a bit tongue in cheek. But here are some important tips:
  • Use antivirus, it’s immensely important - BullGuard Antivirus combines signature and behavioural-based detection. This stops known viruses and malware files and also blocks ransomware.
  • Have a healthy dose of scepticism – the most common way that ransomware gets into a computer is phishing emails, malicious adverts on websites, as well as apps and suspicious programs. Give unsolicited emails a wide berth and make sure you use antivirus that flags up suspicious websites and malicious links. Don’t download apps from unofficial app stores (ransomware targets mobile devices too) and avoid installing programs that are not from a bona fide vendor.
  • Update, update, update – software updates are released regularly by companies to fix vulnerabilities that could be exploited to install ransomware. Some operating system updates happen automatically without you doing anything but some software requires that you ‘authorise’ the update. Be sure to apply all updates.

Free protection

If you’re not already using antivirus you need to do so.
We’ve got a special offer currently running – a free 90 day trial for BullGuard Antivirus.
There are no catches; it’s simply a free trial.
Go to this web page and simply download your trial.