As another strain of ransomware swept through international computer networks, predominantly in Europe for now, a local company is offering a free check-up of sorts.
Edge Networks, a Vancouver cybersecurity firm, is offering free licenses of anti-virus software to local businesses who could fall prey to Petya, a new ransomware rendering computers useless, allegedly until the victims pay $300 in bitcoins.
Josh McKinney, principal engineer for Edge Networks, said the United States has so far been barely affected, but he described Petya’s move from east to west across Europe as a “tidal wave” on its way.
“We’re making sure that when it hits, it could be hours or days from now, our focus is making sure our customers are safe,” McKinney said. “The thought we’ve had is we also want to protect our neighbors. We want to protect our neighbors, these companies that maybe aren’t super huge.”
The company will offer a year-long license of anti-virus software, which usually costs close to $45 per year per license, McKinney said. It will also offer two months of Edge Networks’ monitoring. Companies can call Edge Networks to find out more information.
The Petya malware arrived this week and has already infected computers in at least 65 countries, Microsoft said. Media reports claim it has seeped into ATMs and corporate computers alike, encrypting hard drives for ransom and rendering the devices practically unusable.
Petya has drawn several comparisons to WannaCry, ransomware that broke out across the globe in May. It was ultimately shut down when a 22-year-old researcher in London found a “kill switch” hidden in its operations.
Cybersecurity experts say the best way to protect a machine is to keep it clean and updated with the latest anti-virus software. The arm’s race in malware and spyware has ramped up in recent years, McKinney said, so many businesses that have been using the same software for years are particularly vulnerable.
“A lot of times those systems are not patched or not touched because IT companies say ‘If I touch that, I break it. And if I break it, I break the whole company.’ It’s kind of counter-intuitive,” he said.
Edge Networks’ customers are in the United States and none have been infected so far. The arrival of Petya has sent them patching and updating systems.
“We’ve been taking a proactive approach,” he said. “It’s pretty damaging, obviously, because if the main server at your work or whatever is held hostage, you are forced to pay a ransom and the dollar amount goes up in time.”
The company mostly represents companies with revenues upwards of $100 million, but smaller, local companies and personal computers could be infected just the same, McKinney said. A vulnerable machine belongs to “anyone who makes good use of the internet,” he said.
Edge Networks was founded in 2006 and has about 14 employees today, seven of whom work in downtown Vancouver. The rest are remote workers scattered across the country.