Defend against Ransomware

Ransomware screen

Ransomware screen

Ransomware is a computer virus that encrypts your computer files, or locks up you computer so that you can not access your files. In order to access your files again, you pay a ransom to the attacker who then provides you with the decryption key.

How to prevent a ransomware attack

Some precautions to take against all viruses, including ransomware.

  • Do not click on links to websites that are sent in emails or chat messages.
  • Always run anti-virus software – for Windows users can always use Microsoft Security Essentials, it’s free with a Windows license.
  • Run a firewall – Windows comes with Windows Firewall, turn it on.

Implement a data backup plan

How would your business function if data (such as spreadsheets, documents, contact lists, contracts and agreements with your customers and/or clients is lost)? Do you have a recent backup of  this data? Do you have the ‘manual backup’ process where you store backup files on a thumb drive every week (but in reality you did it once a year or two ago .. maybe three)? Do you backup your files to a separate folder on your hard drive (not much help if the drive fails or becomes encrypted)?

You need to have a solid, reliable data backup and restoration plan if you do become a victim of a ransomware virus, or for something common such as your hard drive failing. You need to ensure your backups do not get ‘stale’, automate your backups. Store backups offsite / in the cloud to ensure you data is available even in case of equipment failures.

Here are some backup options:

Cloud backup options

  • download Google Drive

    Download Google Drive for PC

    Google Drive – A google account comes with 15GB of storage called Google Drive. You can store backup files up to your Google Drive for offsite backups. There is a PC application that can be downloaded at syncs folders on your PC to Google Drive. The PC application creates a folder under you User Folder called Google Drive. any folders you place in there will be automatically uploaded to Google Drive. Google Drive is also useful if you want to share files with other people that you assign permissions to.

  • Dropbox – Dropbox is another web service that syncs files on your PC to offsite backup. Like Google Drive, you can share files with others.
  • A few other options are Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon AWS, there are also dedicated services such as a Carbonite or Mozy. I can not speak to those as I have not used them.


Loss of data has a significant impact on your business. You need a plan of backing up and restoring data. Perform data backups routinely (automated backups are preferred). Never store a backup on the same hard drive as the source files. Store backups to an off-site/cloud provider.

If data is lost and you have no backup, it is gone for good. Plan and implement your backup strategy now!

Defending against Malware

The sound of the bubble from my Samsung tablet I keep in the living room notified me of an email. I set aside my teacup and checked my app.

I’ve had a couple of business transactions with Tobias Peerybingle a few years back. At the time, we exchanged emails had phone conversations and met face to face a couple of times a week. I haven’t heard from Toby since we completed our business at least 3 years ago.


Sample of a Google Doc phishing scam

The email that interrupted my evening tea, was from Toby. From out of the blue, Toby emailed me and informed me that a very important document is available on to Google Docs and that I should sign in with my email and read it. For a split second I contemplated clicking that link. After all, the email came from from someone I knew. Something about that email just didn’t seem kosher, thankfully I didn’t take the bait.

Malware – software that is designed to interfere with a computer’s normal functioning and that can be used to commit cybercrime (as by revealing passwords, PINs, and other sensitive data)

Read more: merriam webster definition

Had I clicked on the link and attempted to view the document, malware could have been installed on my system. The malware could attempt to look at my contact address book and send the same “you have a Google Doc” email to all my contacts. The email would appear to come from me but I would not be aware of it was even sent. The goal of malware, viruses, Trojan horses, etc is to steal passwords, your personal information; to steal your money one way or another.

How to defend against these cyber attacks.

  • Think before you click – even if the email is from someone you know. Be especially wary of any emails that have attachments.
  • Run virus protection software and keep it up to date. Decent virus protection comes with Microsoft Windows Security Essentials.
    Microsoft Windows Security Essentials

    Microsoft Windows Security Essentials

  • Run firewall software such as Windows Firewall. A firewall blocks unauthorized access to your system and programs.

Other measures can be taken as well, the above items are a good start.