Six simple steps to defend your data from ransomware


Ransomware blackmails Internet users by encrypting the files on their computer or mobile device and demanding payment, generally in the virtual currency bitcoin, to unlock them. — dpa

Recent ransomware attacks have rattled internet users around the world. This malicious software blackmails users by encrypting the files on their computer or mobile device and demanding payment, generally in the virtual currency bitcoin, to unlock them. But these six simple security measures can significantly reduce the risk of a computer being hit by an attack.


1. Regular updates
: Software updates for browsers and operating systems don’t just add new functions – they also install security patches to protect computers against the latest malicious software.

The German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) recommends enabling automatic updates on a device and advises against the use of older operating systems such as Windows XP, for which Microsoft has stopped providing regular security updates.

Microsoft will also discontinue updates for the operating system’s successor, Windows Vista, this summer – all the more reason to replace it with a newer version.

2. Be vigilant: Don’t trust anyone, says nomoreransom.org, a website run by IT security companies and European law enforcement. Never open email attachments from suspicious accounts, don’t click on questionable links and don’t download unverified software.

Even emails from friends and co-workers should not necessarily be trusted. Before opening an attachment or clicking on a link, always take time to consider whether the sender’s online account could have been hacked or their computer software infiltrated by malicious software.

3. Antivirus software: Enable all the security applications in your operating system, advises the BSI. Reliable antivirus software can provide further protection, but must be kept up-to-date.

4. Back up data: Creating digital duplicates of your files can protect your personal information from disappearing forever. In the event of an attack, you can just transfer over your back-up files.

Windows (Backup and Restore) and MacOS (Time Machine) have in-built applications for backing up your data, but they might not be accessible in the event of an attack. A more secure option would be to save your files in an external device, such as a hard disk drive, solid-state drive, DVD, or in the cloud.

To reduce the risk of spreading viruses, only connect the external drive to a device during file transfers. As an extra precaution, save your data in two separate external hard drives.


5. Fight back
: If you happen to accidentally install malicious software or receive suspicious messages, immediately disconnect your device from the internet, instructs  nomoreransom.org. to be decrypted. This will prevent the infection from spreading.

You can then run a clean installation of your computer software, and transfer over your back-up files. For some types of ransomware, there are techniques to unlock the content on your computer.

The latest malware outbreak “Petya” can be stopped by creating the read-only filetype “C:\Windows\perfc.dat,” which prevents it from scrambling your files. An initial report on the antidote published on the site bleepingcomputer.com has since been confirm by several IT security companies.

6. Never pay: A blackmailer’s demands should never be met, says the State Office of Criminal Investigation (LKA) of Lower Saxony. There are several reasons for this, the LKA reports. First, even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee that you will regain access to your files.

Second, by paying the attacker, you are supporting the growth of a criminal industry. Every payment finances new attacks. In the case of the recent Petya outbreak, the payment system is useless, because only one email address was provided, which has since been shut down by the provider. — dpa

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Six simple steps to protect your data from ransomware

Six simple methods to save your information from ransomware http://www.techagentmedia.com/six-simple-methods-save-information-ransomware/ via @techagentmedia
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Cloud storage for personal files made safe


Utilise various services: As different Cloud services are suited to different types of files, it makes sense to spread your files out over several different Cloud storage providers. — Illustrations: MUHAMMAD HAFEEZ AMINUDDIN/The Star

Find the best space for your personal files on the Cloud.

In the movie Creed, Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa character looks baffled when a young boxer snaps a picture of a handwritten exercise regime with his smartphone instead of just keeping the paper.

Balboa gets even more confused and looks skywards when the young boxer tells him it’s stored on the Cloud so that the information won’t be lost even if he loses his handphone.

It’s hard to deny the rising importance of Cloud computing in our daily lives, as most of the content, services, apps, and even enterprise systems today reside on the Cloud.

Most of us are probably aware of or have used services such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive.

These services, also known as public Cloud, requires little effort from you other than having to sign up for them.

Most are free and offer up to 15GB of space – if that’s not enough you can subscribe for a nominal sum to bump up storage space.

As these services are mostly operated by tech giants, you don’t have to worry about any of the technical stuff, but on the flipside, you don’t have much control over it.

If you wish to create your own Cloud, it’s now easier than ever as the price of devices and components ­needed to set up such a service have fallen a lot.

Also known as private Cloud, it allows you to keep your files within your own servers and manage them as you see fit.

It takes a bit of investment and know how – our accompanying story will help you decide if you should go for public or private Cloud.

Here we will explore the best public Cloud services so that you can pick one (or two or three) that meets your needs best.

Free and easy

Almost all the public Cloud offerings have a free option – they differ mostly in the size or additional services offered.

Our pick for the best free Cloud service is Google Drive, as you get 15GB without having to spend a single sen.

More importantly, Google has tied Drive to its online services such as Gmail, Photos and Keep, as well as ­productivity tools like Docs, Sheets and Slides.

So all your photos and documents will be synced automatically and will be available from one place.

If 15GB option is too limiting then you can opt to subscribe. For US$1.99 (RM8) a month, you get 100GB of ­additional space.

If you just want sheer volume then try out Mega which offers a whopping 50GB of space for free.

It doesn’t set a limit on file size like most of the other services, but we found the data transfer speed to be a bit slow.

Space for shutterbugs

It goes without saying digital cameras and smartphones in particular have made it easier than ever for everyone to shoot photos.

The real problem, however, is in managing your photos and finding a place to store them.

Most back them up to a desktop or laptop and while it’s better than not backing up at all, is not a good solution as all hard drives have a finite lifespan.

If you don’t have redundancy then you need to find a better solution in the Cloud and we recommend Flickr.

It gets our vote because it offers 1TB of space for free, which should meet the requirements of most users.

Photo size is capped at 200MB while video at 1GB for a single file which is reasonable.

It also has smart photo management which will automatically sort out ­images according to groups such as animals, people and buildings.

Free users will, however, see ads and will not be able to access the ­desktop app for uploading photos.

Like most services, it doesn’t support the uncompressed RAW file format which is preferred by photographers who use DSLRs.

If you like keeping your file as RAW, you will need a service like Amazon Cloud Drive which allows you to upload an unlimited number of ­photos, including RAW files.

Its Unlimited Photos plan will cost you US$11.99 (RM50) a year which is not too bad as RAW files take up a lot of space.

The unlimited offer doesn’t extend to other files, including video – for these files you are limited to only 5GB.

If you need to find space for your videos then you will have to opt for the more expensive plan called Unlimited Everything which costs US$59.99 (RM240) a year. This service, while expensive, lets you upload to your heart’s content.

Cross platform

Nowadays it’s not uncommon to own multiple devices running on different platforms.

If you have, say a MacBook Air for work, Windows PC at home and Android smartphone, you need a Cloud service that supports as many platforms as possible.

While the dominant operating systems – Windows, OS X, Android and iOS are usually supported, other operating systems such as Windows Phone and Linux are often overlooked.

Thankfully Dropbox doesn’t do that – it supports almost every platform, including the ones mentioned above. If you want an alternative, try Box, as it also works on many platforms except Linux.

By Lee Kah Leng The Star

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