Sint Maarten Police Force Warns Caribbean Community on Cyber attacks



PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — Over the years, the Police Force of Sint Maarten (KPSM) has been handling different forms of complaints of cybercrime. In the wake of the recent global threats by ransomware viruses, KPSM has embarked upon an initiative to raise awareness on the growing ransomware and other cybercrime problem.

Recently, a global cyber attack (Wannacry) in the form of a ransomware has affected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries. Organizations affected includes hospitals, railway systems etc. This ransomware is being described as the most dangerous and damaging attack in cyber attacks history.

Why is this attack different?
What makes this attack different from others is the ability for the ransomware to spread on its own without any human input. Previous ransomware of its type depended on human input to spread throughout the network.  This new variant however combined this capability with the “computer worm” capability to replicate itself in order to other computers. Once infected, the virus will encrypt targeted files making them useless. It then displays a message on your computer screen demanding a ransom in order to get the files back. We warn that there is no guarantee that by paying the ransom, your files would be restored. Contacting the cybercriminals can also make you a future target since they may now have your information.

False perception of safety
There is often a false perception that because a device is listed as not affected by a specific type of virus that such device is safe to use. Note that a mobile phone for example can also act as a carrier of any virus even if it is not affected by that particular virus. This means that the virus can be copied to your Smartphone and lay dormant until you connect the Smartphone to a vulnerable device like your laptop or computer which can then be infected.

Another false perception for the WannaCry ransomware is that there is now a kill switch that saved the world from the virus. Although it is true that a turn of switch has been discovered in the code of the virus, this only slows down but does not stop the problem. The kill switch works by stopping the virus from activating if the infected computer has access to the internet and connect to a particular domain. However, if that computer loses access to the internet it can no longer connect to the domain and then proceed to infect the computer.

Avoid being victimized
The best way to avoid being affected by any ransomware or virus is by always being aware of the threats and taking immediate actions to secure your systems. This virus is so dangerous that Microsoft has released updates for even outdated operating systems. Below are a few examples on actions that can be taken to secure your personal or company network from cyber attacks:

  • Safe browsing habits: Be careful when clicking on suspicious links on websites and in emails. A method known as phishing tricks users into clicking on links or attachments in emails or on websites. Never click or open unsolicited links or attachments without verifying this with the sender first. Also be aware of those tempting flashing and links on websites. These links are sometimes created in such a way that you are tempted into clicking on them.
  • Always keep your computer up to date by enabling the automatic download feature in Windows to download the latest updates. Microsoft has also rolled out updates for unsupported operating systems like XP and Server 2003. You must also update these systems.
  • Employers of private and government owned companies should always:

– stay aware of threats;

– Take action to protect their network;

– Maintain awareness throughout their organization by always informing their employees on new cyber attacks.

These examples are especially crucial for critical organizations and infrastructures, such as Medical Centers, telephone and internet providers, power distribution companies and the aviation industry.

It is also important to instruct your employees on how they can help to avoid these threats. It is also very important that proper back-up plan be put in place so that you can recover your data if you are a victim of a cyber attack.

Even though most Wannacry attacks happened outside of the Caribbean, everyone is at risk of being attacked at any given time. The Police Force of Sint Maarten therefore encourages the community to remain alert and to take immediate action to protect yourself against cybercriminals.