With the weekend bringing one of the biggest and most widespread ransomware attacks ever mounted against institutions, companies and consumers alike, one not-so-obvious fact appears to have missed most people. That fact is that this is an attack on the Windows platform, and with Windows 10 adoption at only about 25 percent of the entire world’s desktop OS install base, that leaves a huge number of computers vulnerable to the WannaCrypt malware attack.
In recent articles, we spoke about Microsoft issuing a Customer Guidance with advice on how and where to get the appropriate security updates; we also reported that a 22-year-old security researcher from the UK, who accidentally figured out the “kill switch” to make the ransomware stop spreading to new systems, has warned that the hackers may mount another wave of attacks starting tomorrow.
Coming back to the matter of Windows 10, this particular version of OS wasn’t targeted by the attacks because Windows Defender on Windows 10 can identify and isolate the ransomware. Windows Defender identifies it as Ransom:Win32/WannaCrypt, and can effectively remove the malware from your system. This feature is also available to Windows 8.1 users. On Windows 7 and Vista, the feature is available as Microsoft Security Essentials, which can be downloaded at the link provided.
Assuming that a lot of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users don’t have Microsoft Security Essentials or Windows Defender enabled, they could be open to attack. Microsoft does offer a way out with these security tools, as well as the March security update that was pushed via Microsoft Security Bulletin MS17-010.
However, Microsoft is making it amply clear that unless users are on Windows 10, they may or may not get security updates to protect them from future attacks. In fact, Windows XP only received a security update as part of custom support two days ago, not mainstream or even extended support.
The fact that Microsoft did offer custom support for Windows versions that are past their support lifecycle does show that they’re still concerned about Windows users. It’s a delicate balance between supporting outdated operating systems and promoting the latest and most secure platform.
That said, Windows 10 could get a usage boost this month as businesses scramble to secure their systems and networks from the dreaded WannaCrypt ransomware attack. We could see a fresh wave hit Windows users on Monday, May 15, as indicated by MalwareTech, the 22-year-old security researcher that doesn’t wish to be identified.
If that’s true, then come Monday morning, Windows 10 could see a surge in sales. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if sales are already spiking over the weekend.
If you’re an individual, you can still upgrade your old Windows 7 (SP2) or Windows 8.1 machine to Windows 10, as long as you have the original product key. Please review this article to find out how to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.