Ransomware: NITDA warns of attacks on computers, phones

The Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency has raised the alarm over possible virus attacks on computer and mobile phones across the country.

In a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, the Director-General, NITDA, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, said the virus attack had already been recorded in Ukraine, Denmark, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Poland and the United States. According to Ibrahim, the virus known as ‘Petya’ ransomware or ‘GoldenEye’, not only encrypts files, but also encrypts hard drives, rendering entire computer systems inaccessible. He said the ‘GoldenEye’ was similar to the recent ‘WannaCry’ cyber virus that demanded the payment of ransom before it could allow system owners access to their files.

The NITDA boss said, “The attack has paralysed businesses across the world and is spreading quickly with reports indicating that countries affected so far include Ukraine, Denmark, Russia, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Poland and the US. “The malware is spreading using a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows that was patched in March 2017; the same bug that was exploited by the WannaCry ransomware. “While our CERRT team is working round the clock along with other stakeholders to come up with effective defence mechanism for the Nigerian cyberspace, we are calling on network administrators in the public and private sectors as well as individuals to take the following measures recommended during the recent WannaCry attack: isolate the system from your network to prevent the threat from further spreading; remove the system from the network; and do not use flash/pen drive, external drives on the system to copy files to other systems.”

Ibrahim stated that as a general precautionary measure, individuals and organisations should regularly update their operating systems with the latest patches; regularly update their software applications with latest patches; and turn off unnecessary/unneeded features. Other necessary precautionary measures include avoiding downloading and opening of unsolicited files and attachments; adjusting security software to scan compressed or archived files; and avoiding indiscriminate use of wireless connections such as Bluetooth or infrared ports.