'WannaCry' ransomware attack: What you need to know

WannaCry is a virulent form of ransomware that infected outdated, insecure versions of Windows at catastrophic scale. Attacked system were encrypted and users shut out of their files, the only thing left accessible — a demand for $300 in Bitcoin to unlock the systems.

Richard Devine, writing for Windows Central:

What is WannaCry?WannaCray is a piece of ransomware that infects computers with the intent of monetary extortion in return for access to the contents of the PCs. It encrypts files, claiming only to let you back in upon receipt of the ransom.Which platforms does it affect?So far it only affects Windows systems, with the most well-known target being organizations that are still using Windows XP. WannaCry utilizes an exploit in Windows to get in. The exploits are reportedly ones which were stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The latest versions of Windows were quickly patched following the theft, but XP was not.

Does that mean Mac users don't have to worry?

If you're running macOS on Mac hardware, you don't have worry about WannaCry specifically, at least so far.

If you're running an outdated version of Windows on Mac hardware, especially Windows XP, then it's just as vulnerable as any similar Windows system.

Other forms of ransomware have been discovered on the Mac in the past, though, so it's something everyone should be vigilant about.

How do you protect yourself from ransomware?

There are a couple of things everyone should do to minimize the chances of being adversely affected by a ransomware attack:

  1. Always have an up-to-date backup. That includes local backups like TimeMachine and online backups from a service provider like BackBlaze, Crash Plan or Carbonite.

    How to back up your Mac: The ultimate guide.
  2. Don't click on links in emails or on web pages you aren't 100% sure about. If something looks fake, avoid it, ask about it, or type the site name into your browser and navigate from there.

Wait, these exploits leaked from the NSA?


But... but, last year didn't the government wanted Apple to create a backdoor in iOS they claimed would never leak?!

They most certainly did.

It would be funny if it wasn't so terrifying.

Help! I run Windows — where can I learn more about WannaCry?

Our Microsoft-centric site, Windows Central, has ongoing coverage.

Read: WannaCry ransomware FAQ: Everything you need to know

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.