You’ve heard the phrase “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” right?
Well, a vulnerability first uncovered by the National Security Agency and then released by hackers on the internet is now being used in one of the most prolific cyberattacks ever around the globe.
It’s called WannaCry, and it’s brought computer systems from Russia to China to the UK and the US to their knees, locking people out of their data and demanding they pay a ransom or lose everything.
So far, more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been affected, with victims including hospitals, banks, telecommunications companies and warehouses.
Here’s everything you could want to know about WannaCry.
What is WannaCry?
It’s the name for a prolific hacking attack known as “ransomware,” that holds your computer hostage until you pay a ransom.
The way it works is that once it infects a computer, it encrypts — or basically scrambles — all the data.
Then the program puts up a screen demanding you pay money to get access back.
Typically the price increases over time until the end of a countdown, when the files are destroyed.
We first heard about WannaCry last week from the UK’s health service, which appeared to be one of the first major computer systems affected by the hack.
It’s also called WannaCrypt.
You can follow who’s affected by watching this live tracking map created by MalwareTech.
Why do hackers do this?
The same reason you get telemarketing calls and junk email: It’s effective.
Security company Symantec says that ransomware attacks alone jumped by more than one-third to over 483,800 incidents in 2016.
And that’s just the ones they tracked.