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OK, it has happened, one of my clients got hit by ransomware.

What is ransomware? It is a trojan (pretends to be one thing while it is another) that infects your computer, secretly and silently encrypting all your files in the background. When it is DONE encrypting your files, THEN IT DEMANDS A RANSOM TO GET THEM BACK!

How did it get infected? Through social engineering. What is that? Tricking you into opening an attached file, thinking it is one thing, when it is actually another (dangerous) thing.

Like an “innocent” looking PDF in some random email, like a “PDF” of a scanned image, or a UPS or FedEx bogus delivery notice, or a “bank” wire transfer notice. With a file name of, for example, innocent.pdf.exe - however, Windows, by default, HIDES that last extension (BAD MICROSOFT!), so all you see is “innocent.pdf” and maybe even a PDF icon (they added that in to the file). So you open the “pdf” and *boom* - YOU JUST LAUNCHED THE RANSOMWARE. 

You won’t notice anything in particular. It may actually open what looks like a PDF. BUT IN THE BACKGROUND, THE RANSOMWARE IS SEARCHING OUT ALL YOUR FILES AND SCRAMBLING THEM.

AFTER it is done encrypting your files, hours or days later, THEN it will demand the ransom!

 

Today’s ransomware demanded .54 bitcoins, about $317 right now.

My recommendation: NEVER PAY THE RANSOM!

Why? First, you will be responsible for “rewarding” them for robbing you, and then the thousands of other computers where they will do the same, after you. Secondly, you have no guarantee they will actually decrypt your files. That’s why they’re using bitcoin (untraceable) and random, hacked servers on the Internet to communicate, in the first place.

You need backups, but not just any random backup strategy like an external backup drive. Ransomware will encrypt your backups too, if it can reach them (the drive is plugged in).

What if you had a fire? A lightning strike? A hard drive failure? A burst water pipe? A burglary? Ransomware? You could lose everything, data-wise, if the computer AND local backup hard drive are damaged or stolen or encrypted. 

So how do you protect against a disaster like this? 

The 3-2-1 Backup plan, that’s how.

3 - copies of each file - the original plus 2 copies

2 - different types of storage media

1 - backup offsite

Using a combination of a local backup and an online backup service meets the guidelines of a 3-2-1 Backup.

As far as local backups, if you are on a Mac, Time Machine is the drop-dead-easy best backup solution, and it is free and included on your Mac, and 100% automatic.

On Windows, it is the Wild Wild West, each drive comes with its own proprietary (and usually poor/difficult) backup software, and it can be a chore to set it up, and there are many other third-party backup choices.

And this is very, very inexpensive. External drives are a cheap, one-time purchase. And online backups run around $5 a month.

Sounds cheap compared to losing hundreds or thousands of hours of work, or even your business!

However you do local backups, they are no good unless they are AUTOMATIC. You are not as good as a computer about remembering to backup, sorry :-/

By the way, this is another opportunity to consider switching to a Mac. Ransomware currently is a major Windows threat, like nearly everything out there. There is no reason to think this will change. Just like there are more than 50 MILLION viruses for Windows, but only a handful for Mac. Theoretical threats are not the same as real ones.

Something to think about.

I can help you set up a backup strategy that will protect you. When a disaster strikes, it is too late to think about backups!

Fred

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