This week a new cyberattack, dubbed NotPetya, emerged. Ukraine was the main target of the attack, with the Ukrainian accounting software company, MEDoc, identified as the probable source. As of today, it is confirmed that NotPetya has spread to 65 countries, including the U.S., Belgium, Germany, Brazil and Russia.
Initially thought to be a ransomware attack like last month’s WannaCry attack, NotPetya has now been identified as another type of cyberattack, called a “wiper”.
With ransomware data is encrypted, and supposedly once you pay the hackers they’ll decrypt the data and you can resume normal activity. Of course, most hackers won’t decrypt data regardless of whether you pay them. After all, hackers aren’t the most honorable people to begin with.
However, hackers who develop wiper attacks have more nefarious intentions than taking your money. As the name suggests, these attacks wipe, or overwrite, portions of your computer’s disk, rendering your data unrecoverable. Any request for ransom is secondary and typically not the primary goal of these hackers. Wiper attacks are designed to cause destruction.
NotPetya is like WannaCry in one respect. Both attacks exploit vulnerabilities leaked by The Shadow Brokers, the hacker group that stole and disseminated hundreds of digital hacking tools from the National Security Agency. It’s expected that these attacks won’t cease anytime soon, as hackers all over the world now have a treasure trove of new tools at their disposal with which to “play”.
To protect yourself in this new era of hacking, be diligent. Make sure you’re running the most current version of your computer’s operating system, and that you’re up-to-date with patches. The same advice applies to whatever other software you have installed. Finally, make sure your antivirus software is current, too.
In addition to being diligent about keeping your system up-to-date, be a vigilant user. Never click on an email attachment unless it is something you are expecting, and you can be 100% sure of who sent it. Don’t click suspicious web links, especially videos, in email messages or on websites. And be wary of websites that prompt you to run add-ons to access their content.
Think of protecting your computer as you would your house. Be diligent about having locks on the windows and doors, and be vigilant about opening your door to any passerby who happens to come knocking.