Call it a 'hack' or an 'attack' or what you will, the WannaCry ransom ware issue that's hitting the news is something to keep up on. It may not be striking the U.S. as hard as elsewhere, but it does raise some issues even farmers should care about.
First, it appears that this attack was not started by "phishing" where someone opens an attachment with the virus that then infects a network.
Second, the attack has started on networks, but home (or farm office) users should consider this a warning.
Third, those that don't update or backup are most vulnerable to any kind of computer mayhem.
According to the latest tech reports, it appears that the simple "phish" approach wasn't the cause here. A "phishing" email is one that appears to come from someone you know, but contains an attachment that when opened will wreak havoc on your computer.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the virus manages to use Port 445, which is a non-connected location Microsoft uses to communicate between computer and peripheral - like a printer. Though more questions are still to be answered, and experts are desperately seeking the first attacked computer to help find the perpetrator and more.
While the attack did hit networks, the access point to those networks was through computers that had not been updated with a patch Microsoft released in March. Most personal computer users in the United States leave their computers on 'auto-update' and this may have helped prevent a lot of trouble. The other weakness is that it attacked computers with Windows XP, not the newer Windows 7 or Windows 10.
If you're still using Windows XP make sure you get all the latest updates, though Microsoft officially stopped supporting XP a couple years ago, this patch is available through the update tool in Windows. But that's also a warning call for you to look at upgrading your computer - which probably isn't good news at planting time or with corn under $4, but your farm data is important and should be protected.
Interestingly, Chinese computers were hit hard, but most can't be updated because of lot of those users have pirated versions of Windows.
Finally, backing up your information regularly is important too. Sites like Carbonite offer you fair-priced options for keeping your data safe. You can get unlimited data backup for as little as $59.99 per year for a basic plan. There are other cloud-based backup services to consider. Once installed there's no more worry about backing up your information.
And most of these services make it easy to find your data in case something is missing too. But having the backup helps assure that if you get hit with ransom ware you don't have to pay up. While it's unclear if ransom ware people actually 'release' your computer if they get in there and try to force you to pay. Having the backup can help assure you don't lose anything, and if needed you will have options if you get tagged by a ransom ware hack.
Some of the same tools and tactics I've been writing about for years still matter:
* Back up regularly
* Have anti-virus software on your computer and keep it updated (and let it 'scan' your system regularly)
* Keep your main software (Windows, Office, etc.) updated
* And if updates are no longer available for key tools you use, it's time to update your tech.
Simple ways to protect your valuable information.