The recent Ransomware attack on May, 2017 was big news. Really big.
This was mainly because the Wannacry virus hit Government servers and shut down hospitals and other services all around the world, thus threatening global finance and lives. It was, in fact, the largest Ransomware attack in history.
As this was a Windows only attack I could fill this article about Windows vs Mac. I could bleat on for pages about how much better off we are owning a Mac. How we can sleep well at night not having to worry about such things. How we get to enjoy the full potential of our chosen platform without constantly worrying about building electronic walls and guarding them 24/7.
I could. But I won’t.
Instead I am going to use this to remind us all about the benefits of staying up to date with software and hardware.
The simple truth is this all could have been avoided by simply keeping up to date.
The very exploit the WannaCrypt virus took advantage of had, in fact, been patched by Microsoft months and months before any hospital servers crashed or welfare cheques refused to print. What is more this attack exposed the fact that over 8% of the words computers still run Windows XP – an operating system that first arrived 16 years ago and was last patched in 2001*. And if that wasn’t bad enough it was discovered that the next largest lump of Windows out there is Windows 7 and that was replaced in 2012 by the schizophrenic Windows 8.
These old systems hadn’t been supported or patched and Microsoft had been saying for years that people needed to update. But they were ignored and these government departments and hospitals continued to use these old systems for various reasons, not least of which was cost. They thought it cheaper to stay with what they had rather than invest in newer, supported machines but I dare say they are regretting that now.
Now this is fine if the computers in question are disconnected from the internet but a large portion are not and that is the same as leaving your front door open with a neon sign above flashing “Money is under the mattress – help yourself we are out till 10pm”
So what, I am sure you are wondering by now, does this have to do with us Mac users? We already know better than to buy Windows in the first place? Right?
Well the truth is, we are not immune. Ransomware has been found in illegally downloaded software and in legal software downloaded from a compromised boutique websites.**
But I am not suggesting that we run around screaming with our hands flapping in the air but rather consider if we are as up to date as possible. And if not, why not.
Is it because we are holding onto an old piece of software that just does a better job than the newer versions? Is it because we still love our 2007 iMac and it still does everything we want? All these reasons are very valid but the fact that our Macs (2007 or otherwise) are still connected to the internet. And when you realise that the internet is like a giant cavern that is a fountain of knowledge, a wonder and a source of endless possibilities all while simultaneously trying to rob us blind, you will quickly see that a 2007 iMac running 10.6.8 is a bit like going into a knife fight wearing a vest.
I think if this terrible tragedy has taught us anything it is that we should keep our Macs up to date with the latest (or close to the latest) OS. We should keep all our software up to date and when our hardware makes any of this impossible it is time – regrettably – to say goodbye. We need to keep backups up to date and passwords need to be varied and strong.
* Microsoft have been releasing patches in the wake of this attack but know one can, or should, expect them to do this forever.
** It has also recently been found in the AppStore and other well respected sites.