Dutch police call on citizens to report cyberattacks following global ransomware attack

The Dutch police are calling on all individuals and businesses to report any form of cyber attack on their computers, following a global ransomware attack that infected at least 200 thousand computers in 150 countries since Friday, including in the Netherlands, according to NU.nl. The virus infected computers through a months-old security leak in Windows, for which Microsoft already implemented an update. 

Shortly after the first attacks, Microsoft announced that computers with all the latest Windows updates installed and a basic anti-virus software are safe against the  "WannaCry" ransomware. The Dutch police therefore advise all Dutch computer users to make sure that they are protected against ransomware by installing all updates instantly, using an anti-virus program and regularly backing up the data on their computers. The police also strongly advise against paying the 'ransom' to regain access to your computer if you have been affected.  "It is by no means certain that payment will lead to decryption of the files", the police said in a statement.

The WannaCry virus blocks access to the entire computer. Once infected, the user can only see a screen that states that a ransom of 300 dollars in bitcoins must be paid for the pc to be unlocked, according to RTL Nieuws. Ransomware viruses usually infect a pc through an email attachment. It is believed that this virus worked the same way. A worrying addition is that if one pc in a network is infected, the virus spreads to all computers on that network. That makes it especially dangerous for large companies - only one employee clicking on a suspicious attachment could bring down the company's entire system.

A few Dutch Microsoft users were also affected, including a number of Q-Park parking garages. The payment machines at 262 parking garages across the country didn't work due to the attack, which meant that customers couldn't pay for their parking and that Q-Park had to leave the booms open. Most of the problems were solved by Sunday night, a spokesperson said to AD.

The ransomware spread so rapidly around the world partly due to the fact that many governments, companies and hospitals, among others, still use older, unsafe versions of Windows. On Sunday Europol raised concerns that WannaCry will spread even further on Monday when many people turn on the work pc for the first time since the outbreak. 

In March Microsoft released an update to protect the latest Windows versions against the WannaCry ransomware. Due to the size of the weekend's attack, the software company also released updates for the Windows versions that are no longer supported, such as Windows XP. 

In a statement Microsoft also fiercely criticized governments for stockpiling software vulnerabilities, instead of informing the software company of issues so that customers can be protected. According to the company, the vulnerability used by WannaCry was stolen from the NSA.  "Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage. An equivalent scenario with conventional weapons would be the U.S. military having some of its Tomahawk missiles stolen. And this most recent attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today – nation-state action and organized criminal action.", Microsoft president Brad Smith said in the statement.