As many as 150 countries are reeling under the consequences of a shocking ransomware attack, where a virus called WannaCry takes over computers and demands a payment of $300 in Bitcoin to unlock the data. India, too, was found to be one of the affected countries. And as it often happens, it has unleashed a flurry of warning messages on social media and messaging apps to guard against the attack.
While the messages may be well-intended, many of them are fake.
There are legitimate messages warning people against opening email attachments with certain extensions or those sent by unknown or untrusted senders, and to run security patches and keep anti-virus softwares updated. But it’s getting harder by the hour to discern them from the fake ones.
For instance, one of the most commonly forwarded messages is warning people against opening a video called ‘Dance of the Hillary’. According to the message, opening this video automatically formats your phone. The message claims that this was also announced on BBC radio.
The message is actually an edited version of an older hoax.
An earlier message with similar language claimed the video in question was called ‘Sonia Disowns Rahul’. That hoax message claimed this video would format your phone and steal your credit card information. In another rendition of the message, the name of the video changes to ‘Dance of Pope’.
According to a report in BOOM, the message has tell-tale signs of a hoax. For starters, if the virus wants to steal your information, formatting the phone would be self-defeating. Another giveaway is if SMS lingo is used, such as ‘fwd’, which no legitimate news source would use.
There have also been messages circulating about ATMs being shut due the ransomware attack, and those warning people against doing online transactions “today”. The BOOM report says that the lack of a specific time of origin by using words such as ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ is also a sign of the message being a hoax.
It must be noted however that there are conflicting reports about ATMs being frozen due to the ransomware attack. This TOI report, for instance, says that the RBI has directed ATM networks to operate only after receiving a Windows update.
However, the RBI spokesperson has rubbished messages about RBI directing banks to shut down ATMs. Speaking to TNM, the spokesperson said that the RBI has not passed any circulars to banks on the issue, and clarified that any and all circulars sent by the RBI have been uploaded on their website.
Suchetana Ray’s report in Hindustan Times also quoted security experts as saying that ATMs are safe for now.
The Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In) has issued a red alert about the ransomware. It has asked Windows users to apply security patches to Windows systems as mentioned in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010.
You can find more details about the virus and keeping your system safe from the attack here.