Archive Monthly Archives: May 2016

How to keep Ransomware off your PC

As computer viruses evolve, their methods become more sophisticated, even going so far as to hold your computer and your data hostage, hence it being called “ransomware”. Ransomware is a new type of virus that is quickly on the rise. There are three types of ransomware, here they are in order of severity:

  • Scareware – Fake antivirus tools that pretend to detect viruses and demand payment to fix them.
  • Browser or screen locking ransomware – Law enforcement scams use fake FBI or Department of Justice messages to claim they’ve detected illegal activity on your computer for which you need to pay a fine.
  • Encrypting ransomware – Pop up messages say your files are encrypted and demand ransom money be paid by a deadline in order to return them.

Depending on the flavor of ransomware you end up getting, these can be extremely costly. Not just if you decide to pay the ransom or not. If mission critical data ends up being tied up, then it can cost business downtime as well as any costs associated with having to recreate business critical data.

Speaking of the ransom, cyber security experts recommend not paying the ransom. Mostly because there is no guarantee that you’ll get your data back. Also it can make you a target for more attacks.

So then how do you protect yourself?

  • Use supported software that is receiving updates and bug fixes.
  • Automatically install Windows updates.
  • Have a strong backup plan.
  • Have a good cyber security strategy.(Antivirus and firewalls)

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What is the cloud? And can it be trusted?

It seems that, as an IT consultant, a lot of my conversations end up circling back to the same questions. What is the “cloud”? And can it be trusted? The first question is way easier to answer then the second.

The cloud is an internet based service that offers anywhere access for an annual fee. Pretty much it means you pay someone to put your stuff on their equipment and let them manage it. Some good examples are file storage options such as Dropbox or Google Drive where they allow you anytime, anywhere access to files. Other examples are Quickbooks Online and Office 365 hosted Exchange.

The pros of these services are extremely enticing. Convenience being at the top of the list. For a monthly fee you are no longer responsible for maintaining these services. No more scheduling downtime for upgrades, no more having to increase storage to keep up with growth. No more having to manage disaster recovery practices. Along with the convenience of less maintenance, you have the convenience of anywhere access. Where at one point you had to go into your office to do your work, now the cloud makes everything you might need in your office available with a laptop and an internet connection. Without a doubt, the monthly fee for cloud services is not just to pay someone to manage your stuff, but it is also to pay for convenience.

The cons mostly revolve around security and reliability. Afterall, paying for cloud services is a lot like buying insurance. You give them money and they give you a promise that they’ll be there whenever you need them. But, at the end of the day, it’s still just a promise. And with data breaches with large companies still on the rise, security should be a big concern. A small company can store their data with a big name cloud provider and lose their advantage of anonymity, if that large cloud provider is hacked.

So what can you do?

  • Make your own decision, based off of your needs and your individual risks. Weigh the pros and cons and come to your own decision on if the cloud is a good move for you.
  • Create redundancy. Many cloud providers have a way for you to download a backup of your data. If you make a habit of doing that, you can create a reliable fail safe. Just in case.
  • Integrated Calendars
  • Have a password policy. Using super strong passwords, along with changing your passwords every 60 days or so decreases your likelihood of a security breach, drastically.
  • Talk to a trusted IT professional. Have someone you trust to ask questions and run ideas by. The cloud can be a powerful tool, but isn’t right for everyone and every situation.

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