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It was May 12th,2017. The ransomware known as WannaCry reached its peak and affected up to 200.000 computers across 150 countries. Imagine how many more people could have been affected by WannaCry, if it wasn't for Marcus Hutchins, who discovered the kill switch for WannaCry a few days after its discovery, putting a stop on this ransomware epidemic.
Ransomware infects hundreds of thousands of people each year with WannaCry keeping its top position within the most widespread ransomware. This is why today, May 12th, 2020 – on the first Anti-Ransomware Day in history – it is important to understand how ransomware works to keep our data safe and not fall for malicious cybercriminals.
What is ransomware?
Remember when you were little and your brother took your favorite toy hostage and threatened to destroy it if you didn't hand over the remote to him. Ransomware works similarly, but instead of taking your favorite toy away, it encrypts your data, so you cannot access it anymore, and the malicious person behind it threatens to destroy or publish it if you do not pay a ransom – hence the name ransomware. It can also extract data saved on your devices, like credit card numbers or login data, which could lead to criminals cleaning out your bank accounts.
How does ransomware work?
Ransomware exploits vulnerabilities in software or drive-by-downloads. Drive-by-downloads are very tricky, as you don't always recognize they are being downloaded on your device. Let's say you are downloading a free time management tool on your computer. Ransomware could be attached to it and be transferred onto your device, without you recognizing. Another possible way is a crooked link which you visit accidentally because you might have clicked on an ad or spelled the URL incorrectly, so when the website is loading you don't realize that there is ransomware downloading in the background. It also spreads via so-called social engineering: Cybercriminals send malicious links or documents via emails or chat messages and try to attract users to open it. Once opened, the malicious software gets downloaded and starts taking hold of your data.
How to keep safe?
To keep your data safe, you mainly need to stay alert: do not click on suspicious links, always check the URL before login into your profiles, and always make sure to not download any attachments from senders you do not know. Also, do not forget to back up your data. You may think your data is not as important, but just consider the emotional value of all your family pictures and videos or that report you need to hand in by the end of the week. And most importantly, please always keep your software up to date to ensure vulnerabilities are not a gateway to your data.
What if it is already too late?
Ransomware attacks somebody every 14 seconds. If one of your devices gets infected, you have to immediately cut its internet connection, and however important the data is, do not pay the ransom. Instead, file a report with the police. Organizations like nomoreransom.org can help you restore your encrypted data. Try to find a decryptor online, some of them are even free – just make sure it's a trustworthy provider.
No matter how bad circumstances may be and how great of damage your data loss is, remember that there are always guardians out there, like Marcus Hutchins, Eva Galperin, Einar Otto Stangvik, or Kira Rakova, making sure we are safe in the digital world. And today, we would like to say: Thank you!
- Tomorrow Unlocked > hacker : HUNTER ›
- Tomorrow Unlocked > Wannacry ›
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Videos we love: Five amazing sci-fi shows that predict the future of tech
Technology could go anywhere in future. We ask you, which of these five sci-fi on-demand TV shows predicts it best?
Which sci-fi series gets our tech future right?
Predicting the future of tech is hard. These five on-demand sci-fi TV shows all predict different technological futures for humankind. Which do you think is closest to the truth?
Watch on Amazon Prime
In a new twist on the superhero saga, in Alphas, a select few humans have developed super senses, but they're also plagued by harmful drawbacks. For the crime-fighting supergroup, their strengths and flaws act as both help and hindrance.
Watch on Netflix
Set in a future where consciousness is digitized and stored in human spines, people can survive physical death by having their memories and consciousness "re-sleeved" into new bodies. What could go wrong?
Watch on Netflix
Could technology alter memory and perception? Will AI be our friend or foe? Can we tell a digital human from a real one? This anthology of self-contained future worlds will satisfy the most curious minds, but is not for the faint-hearted.
Brave New World
Watch on Amazon Prime
This 2020 adaptation loosely based on Aldous Huxley's influential 1932 novel envisions a perfect, happy society, where everyone knows their place. But, with advanced genetic technology, is it possible?
Watch on BBC iPlayer (UK only)
In a world where quantum computing can predict all human behavior (ouch,) humanity places its trust in a crack team of developers to restore their freedom.
There you have it – our five favorite sci-fi shows predicting a technological future. Which stands out for you, and why? Tell us on Twitter or Facebook and see what others say. And at Tomorrow Unlocked, we have our own predictions for the future of tech. Strap in – this is Imagine Beyond.
Videos we like: Documentaries on how COVID-19 changed our world
How much will our lives change after COVID-19? We look at five of the most powerful documentaries made during the pandemic.
How did filmmakers see COVID-19?
The global community meets an invisible enemy, and must race against the clock to save humanity – COVID-19 is a compelling story. How was it seen by filmmakers around the world? These five must-see documentaries from creatives worldwide exploring different sides of the pandemic.
76 Days (above)
Directed by Hao Wu and Weixi Chen
What was Wuhan like in the pandemic's early days? Wonder no more. This acclaimed documentary is a poignant snapshot of struggle and resilience in the battle to survive the coronavirus.
Directed by Didi Mae Hand
The pandemic stretched hospital resources more than ever. Among the first to take advantage of the struggle was a wave of deadly hackers. Follow as the healthcare system fights the virus on two fronts.
Part of a series commissioned by Tomorrow Unlocked.
Directed by Ai WeiWei
Each country responded differently to the outbreak. China's was one of military and extreme efficiency. But what impact did that response have on their people? Behind the scenes of China's battle against a silent killer, directed by acclaimed artist Ai WeiWei.
Eight countries, one global pandemic
Directed by Great Big Story
This heartwarming documentary follows eight households from across the globe every day through the pandemic, to see how different families coped with lockdown.
Directed by Adam Benzine
The Trump administration's response to COVID-19 receives an insightful, highly emotional look from Academy Award-nominated director Adam Benzine.
It wasn't just professionals capturing the pandemic through a lens. During lockdown, we asked creatives worldwide to capture one hour from their pandemic experience. Watch the playlist we made from these moments – TWELVE.