A worldwide cyber attack began on Friday, May 12, 2017. This ransomware attack called “WannaCry” targeted computers running Microsoft Windows and demanded ransom payments after encrypting all of the victim’s data. The attack was slowed when an internet security researcher registered a domain name he found in the code of the ransomware, but new versions have since been released to overcome this defensive measure.

WannaCry used an exploit in the Windows SMB protocol that had been discovered previously by the National Security Agency (NSA), revealed by the “Shadow Brokers”, and patched by Microsoft on March 14, 2017. Windows computer that were up to date were not at risk, but many consumers and businesses had not yet applied these patches. The threat was so severe that Microsoft even released patches for operating systems that they no longer support, including Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

This incident strongly highlights how important it is to keep up with Windows updates. Applying patches can be annoying, because they require taking the time to install the patches and restart the computer, but they usually provide improved security features that can prevent many malicious attacks like WannaCry. If your computers are not up to date, take some time to update them as soon as possible. If you are running an operating system that is no longer supported like Windows XP or Windows Vista, you need to upgrade your operating system. It’s more important than ever to keep your technology up to date, because attacks like this aren’t going away; they’re only getting more common.