MUMBAI: At least 18 individuals approached a state government-run helpline, in a span of three days last month, after having lost all the data on their computers to a WannaCryransomware attack. This is significant considering that not a single complaint of the attack has been registered with any cyber police cell in Maharashtra so far.
There’s a possibility that most of these 18 individuals, representing small-scale industries and manufacturers, may have already paid up the ransom.
WannaCry is a hacking attack that holds your computer hostage until you pay a ransom, typically via Bitcoin. More than two lakh computers in 150 countries, including in hospitals, banks and telecommunication companies, were affected by the last such coordinated attack.
Between May 16 and 18, the Maharashtra government tied up with an IT security solutions company, QuickHeal Technologies, to run a helpline about WannaCry. The helpline, which was manned by two malware experts, received 489 calls. Around 42% of the callers wanted to know how they could protect their system and prevent a WannaCry infection.
“This is the first time that the state had set up such a helpline. Most of the calls we received were panic calls. People described their operating systems and asked which anti-virus should they be downloading,” said Sanjay Katkar, managing director, QuickHeal Technologies.
“Eighteen callers said they had lost all data because of the infection. They weren’t understanding what to do and where to go. We asked if they had a backup and guided how they could restore data from the backup. We also gave information on how to avoid other machines of theirs from getting infected,” said Katkar. Some of these callers wanted to know what a bitcoin is and where they could buy it. His teams visited a couple of the callers and came across the ransomeware on their computers but they did not wish to file a complaint. “It’s either because the operating system being used is pirated or because the company fears loss of reputation,” said Katkar.
“WannaCry is a form of extortion and we appeal to people to not pay up as this only encourages the hackers further,” said Brijesh Singh, director general of police (IPR).
To prevent a WannaCry attack, it is important to update the anti-virus, patch the operating system, and have a backup of sensitive data. “Earlier, computers would get infected through spam mail—if someone wasn’t wise enough and clicked on a suspicious link mailed to him. There was contributory negligence. But WannaCry does not require user negligence at all,” said Singh. He added that chances of fixing WannaCry are almost nil.