Here's how you can protect your PC from the 'WannaCry' ransomware attack

Ccleaner
We’ve all seen the headlines by now: Late last week, a ransomware attack started sweeping the globe, crippling tens of thousands of computers the world over. Hospitals were forced to delay critical and life-saving surgeries, as they were locked out of their own computers by the “WCRY” — or WannaCrypt — ransomware, and government agencies were shut out of critical computer systems.

Over the weekend, the spread of the malicious code was slowed by the accidental discovery of a killswitch within the malware itself — but it’s still out there, and could be replaced by an enhanced version at any time. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from it, and most other versions of ransomware.

Download the patch

As is usually the case with these sorts of attacks, Windows users are most at risk, but Microsoft has put out a patch that should secure your system. Let’s not beat around the bush. If you’re running Windows, fire up your Windows Update and download the latest security patches from Microsoft.

On the off chance your Windows Update isn’t showing any new patches, you might have already installed it if your PC automatically updated itself, or you might be running an ancient version of Windows that no longer receives mainstream updates. That includes Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 8.

If you’re running Windows XP, Vista, Windows 8, or another elder Microsoft OS, head over to the Microsoft site and download the patch for your version of Windows. Like, right now. Stop reading this and go grab it! We’ll wait.

Upgrade to Windows 10

After installing the security update, the next best thing you can do to protect yourself against future attacks is pretty simple. Upgrade to the latest version of Windows! If you’re still using Windows XP or Windows 8, you’re more at risk for this kind of attack than users on the latest version of Windows.

We know, Windows 10 isn’t perfect, and it has a bunch of issues that — understandably — make some users nervous. Integrated advertising, for one, is not such a great feature. It’s easily disabled, but it’s still there, and it’s a huge pain. But so is getting locked out of your PC because your system is out of date.

Windows 10 is Microsoft’s flagship operating system and because of that, it gets a lot of attention. Security updates roll out on a regular basis, and it’s constantly improving. When it first debuted, there were more than a few reasons why you might not want to upgrade, but as time has gone on — and as the operating system has improved — that list has gotten smaller and smaller.

With this global ransomware attack, that list has dwindled even further. By now, the risks of sticking with an outdated version of Windows far outweigh the rewards. So do yourself a favor, and upgrade to the latest version of Windows as soon as you can. You can even check out our guide on getting setup with Windows 10 here.

And, of course, install an antivirus

Antivirus protection is not impenetrable. WannaCrypt, for instance, took advantage of exploits in unpatched versions of Windows. Those systems can be infected remotely from other network-attached computers that were already compromised. An antivirus may not be able to protect effectively against and attack, particularly when it’s new.

However, antivirus programs are still a good idea. Many can detect and isolate software that appears to behave suspiciously, which will sometimes halt undetected malware. Good antivirus programs are also updated frequently, so even if the initial wave of attacks slip through, later attempts should be detected and halted.

Check out our list of free antivirus programs and download one of our top picks.

Computing

Intel expects Apple to transition Macs to ARM processors in 2020, report says

It has been rumored for some time that Apple could transition away from Intel to ARM processors, but a new report now claims that Intel is aware of the decision and that it could happen in 2020.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

Though there are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, finding a solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here are the best PDF editors for your editing needs, no matter your budget or OS.
Computing

Like to be brand loyal? These tech titans make some of our favorite laptops

If you want to buy your next laptop based around a specific brand, it helps to know which the best brands of laptops are. This list will give you a good grounding in the most reliable, quality laptop manufacturers today.
Computing

Chrome is a fantastic browser, but is is still the best among new competitors?

Choosing a web browser for surfing the web can be tough with all the great options available. Here we pit the latest versions of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Edge, and Vivaldi against one another to find the best browsers for most users.
Computing

Windows updates shouldn't cause problems, but if they do, here's how to fix them

Windows update not working? It's a more common problem than you might think. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot it and in this guide we'll break them down for you step by step.
Computing

Still miss Windows 7? Here's how to make Windows 10 look more like it

There's no simple way of switching on a Windows 7 mode in Windows 10. Instead, you can install third-party software, manually tweak settings, and edit the registry. We provide instructions for using these tweaks and tools.
Computing

The rumors were true. Nvidia’s 1660 Ti GPU, a $280 powerhouse, has arrived

Nvidia has officially launched the GTX 1660 Ti, its next-generation, Turing-based GPU. It promises to deliver all the performance and efficiency for all modern games, but without stepping into the high price range of the RTX series. 
Computing

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Computing

Great PC speakers don't need to break the bank. These are our favorites

Not sure which PC speakers work best with your computer? Here are the best computer speakers on the market, whether you're working with a tight budget or looking to rattle your workstation with top-of-the-line audio components.
Computing

Confused about RSS? Don't be. Here's what it is and how to use it

What is an RSS feed, anyway? This traditional method of following online news is still plenty useful. Let's take a look at what RSS means, and what advantages it has in today's busy world.
Computing

Everything you need to know about routers, modems, combos, and mesh networks

Modem vs. router: what's the difference? We explain their functions so you can better diagnose any issues prior to contacting technical support. We also talk about a few variants you'll see offered by ISPs and retailers.
Computing

Metro Exodus update brings DLSS improvements to Nvidia RTX 20-series PCs

Having issues in Metro Exodus? A February 21 update for the title recently delivered enhancements to Nvidia’s deep learning supersampling feature and other fixes for low-specced PCs. 
Computing

Limited-time sale knocks $500 off the price of the Razer Blade Pro 17

Looking for an ultra-powerful laptop for yourself or someone else? You're in for some luck. Razer is running a sale on some of its best gaming laptops, cutting down pricing on the Razer Blade 15 and the Razer Blade Pro 17. 
Emerging Tech

Engineer turns his old Apple lle into an wheeled robot, and even gives it a sword

How do you give new life to a 30-year-old computer? Software engineer Mike Kohn found a way by transforming his old Apple IIe into a wheeled robot. Check it out in all its 1980s glory.