Ransomware? What the…? What it is and why you should care?

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There’s been a lot of buzz around lately about cyber threats and protecting data. In particular, I’ve noticed quite a number of learned articles and seminars/webinars on managing your ransomware risk, which is great for increasing awareness… or is it?

I was giving this some thought this morning during my morning swim, as you do, and it hit me.  These articles are for people who already know what ransomware is.  Why would you bother reading them if you didn’t know?  And, of course, it is the people that don’t know who are at greatest risk.  I don’t mean to offend my learned colleagues, but frankly the pitch is ALL WRONG.  As I have said before, a risk not well understood will often be ignored.

I’ve spoken a few times in my blogs about the ‘why should I care?’ quotient.  The purpose of this blog is to explain ransomware, why you should care, and what you can do about it!

So, let’s start at the very beginning.  Ransomware is where a scammer gets access to your computer/device files, scrambles them all up so you can’t access them and then demands that you pay them (often in a funny currency known as ‘Bitcoin’) to unscramble them.

As the story goes, ransomware has only emerged as a thing for around the last five years or so.  I’m not so sure about that.  I mean stealing your stuff, your secrets even, and demanding a ransom is something that has been around for a very long time.  It’s just that technology makes it much easier for the criminally-inclined.

Now that you know what it is, I am almost certain that you are thinking two things.  The first one, is ‘well how can they access my files?’ and the second being ‘I don’t have anything/much of worth in my files’.  I’ll deal with the first one first!

There are a few ways that ransomware that can find its way onto your devices.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, email is still a problem – and the scammers are getting very sophisticated.  Inadvertently downloading attachments or clicking links in dodgy emails can lead to you being asked to pay up for your own files.  Likewise, downloading files/apps from non-reputable sources or visiting dodgy websites could expose you to Ransomware.  My best advice is to always keep your thinking cap on when dealing with the internet and if it seems risky, it is risky.  Don’t be tempted to do #dumbthings on the internet (and I’ve got another blog on that!).

Now, secondly, you may think that there’s nothing important on your computer anyway.  Or, there’s just some things that you wouldn’t want to lose.  Things like your photos or your uni assignment that is due next week.  If you don’t take anything else from this blog but what I say next, you are still a winner.  NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE VALUE OF YOUR STUFF.  CRIMS WILL MONETIZE EVERYTHING. It is 2017 and we live a lot of our lives online, even if we don’t realise it.  There are many reasons why garden variety house burglaries are down –  and one of those reasons is that it is easier and less risky to steal stuff online.  From your email addresses to your banking details, to your most intimate thoughts and feelings expressed in emails and online messages, they are all there.  Think about it. The ‘inconvenience’ of needing to reset all of your passwords because your files have been scrambled, could be the least of your problems if your files are inaccessible.

Do you care yet?  I hope so.

So, some practical tips.  At the risk of sounding like a nag telling you to brush your teeth, there are a few things you absolutely have to do:

  • Make sure your security software is up to date
  • Keep your operating systems up to date and install any patches Immediately
  • Keep your software/apps up to date
  • Don’t share usb drives or other such devices
  • Treat any unsolicited emails with suspicion. Don’t respond. Don’t click on links. Don’t download attachments.

And, I will save my biggest tip for last.  You absolutely need to back up your data.  By this, I don’t mean saving it on your device.  I mean, make a copy and keep it somewhere else.  These days you can buy, relatively cheaply, external storage (hard drives etc) that should keep your files nice and safe.  You might even want to invest in some cloud storage (where you save your stuff with a reputable online company who look after it for you). Spend a few bucks: it is well worth the peace of mind.

 

T One P Enterprises offers workshops for businesses – big and small – on the ‘Why should I care?’ quotient and the risk of (inadvertently) doing #dumbthings on the internet.  For more information, feel free to message me.

 

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