Following last month’s global coordinated ransomware attack on thousands of private
and public sector organisations – most evident in the UK in the National Health Service – the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) reported no initial subsequent accounts of the same kind. But, the service added, it was important to understand that “the way these attacks work means that compromises of machines and networks that have already occurred may not yet have been detected, and that existing infections from the malware can spread within networks.”
NCSC warned that further cases of ransomware may come to light, possibly on a significant scale, and urged a national focus on two lines of defence.
Limit the spread
The first is to limit the spread and impact of the attacks that have already occurred. Due to broad government and partner efforts, a variety of tools are now publicly available to help organisations to do this. This guidance can be found at ncsc.gov.uk
– under the
title Protecting Your Organisation From Ransomware
NCSC said that it was already known that there had been attempts to attack organisations beyond the National Health Service. “It is therefore absolutely imperative that any organisation that believes they may be affected, follows and implements this guidance. We have set out two pieces of guidance: one for organisations and one for private individuals and SMEs which can be applicable regardless of the age of the software in question. It will be updated as and when further mitigations become available and we will announce when updates have been made on Twitter (@ncsc) and elsewhere.
Secondly, it is possible that a ransomware attack of this type and on this scale could recur, though we have no specific evidence that this is the case. What is certain is that ransomware attacks are some of the most immediately damaging forms of cyber attack that affect home users, enterprises and governments equally.
It is also the case that there are a number of easy-to-implement defences against ransomware which very considerably reduce the risk of attack and the impact of successful attacks. These simple steps to protect against ransomware are not being applied by either the public or organisations as thoroughly as they should be.
Three simple steps for companies to undertake are recommended:
• Keep your organisation’s security software patches up to date
• Use proper anti-virus software services
• Most importantly for ransomware, back up the data that matters to you, because you can’t be held to ransom for data you hold somewhere else.
Home users and small businesses can take the following steps to protect themselves:
• Run Windows Update
• Make sure your AntiVirus product is up to date and run a scan – If you don’t have one install one of the free trial versions from a reputable vendor
• If you have not done so before, this is a good time to think about backing important data up.
NCSC has said that it will work closely with the National Crime Agency in support of their criminal investigation, and with international partners in both other governments and the commercial sector, and will continue its effort to get ahead of this threat. “We would like to reassure the public that resources from the government, law enforcement and public and private sector organisations are working together to manage further disruption from the current attack and to increase protection against any further attacks in the coming days. The country’s security and law enforcement agencies are working round the clock to protect the public. Private sector efforts have made a very significant contribution to mitigate the cyber attacks so far and to prevent further disruption.”
Further updates will be provided when appropriate.