This weekend’s worldwide ransomware attack has once again called into question the security of the nation's computer networks.
The “WannaCry” attack affected more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries, including hospitals, Russian banks, Chinese universities and Fed Ex in the United States.
Experts are concerned the authors of the malware could rerelease it without a kill switch or that copycats could launch their own attack.
So how can you protect yourself?
Larry Piland, the head of Datel Systems – an IT company based in San Diego – breaks down how malware works.
“Your virus protection doesn't catch it,” he told NBC 7. “It comes in an email usually with an attachment with a spread sheet or a PDF file or something or a Microsoft Word file. And when you launch it, it latches on, looks for ways to get into your network server and it encrypts your files and at that point, you're done.”
The virus then demands a ransom of about $300 in bitcoin for a code to release your information.
Luckily, Piland says there are some simple red flags you can look for in suspicious emails.
First check the email header to see if it’s really from who it says it's from? “[Notice] verbiage or word choice within the email that people wouldn't use,” he explains. “’Kindly’ is a red flag right away. That I see in like 70 percent of the spam I get.”
Piland also says you should ask yourself if the company would contact you via email on that subject.
And if you’re still in doubt Piland says to go straight to the source. “Get a hold of the person,” he suggests. “Through messenger, text them, call them. Say ‘hey, did you send me this spread sheet?’ Check on it.”
And while no one wants to catch this cyber virus, he says it's especially important that small businesses stay vigilant.
“If you lose data and your business goes down for several days, it can really hurt your business. 60 percent or so of the businesses that have a big outage like this go out of business within a couple of years,” he explains.
Also make sure your operating systems are patched and up to date as well as your anti-virus and anti-malware software. Piland suggests using Malwarebytes anti-malware software.
Finally, in Word and Excel disable macros. Then if you do open a file, it won't trigger attack commands hidden in the file.
Friday's attack was halted by a 22-year-old British cyber blogger. He said he doesn't doubt there will be a second attack.