Broker Check

Ransomware and Cyber Security

May 23, 2017

OK, this is a bit of technical advice, not financial advice.  And I am not the most qualified person to advise on this.  But since many of you may have personal data on your computers - including financial data, I figure it is at least marginally in my area of interest.  

Recent highly publicized hacking attacks remind us once again how important it is to take basic cyber security precautions - both with our home and office computers.  This most recent attack used so-called ransomware, allegedly created by a North Korea affiliated hacking group.  If you are infected with ransomware, you may easily lose all the files on your computer.  Making matters worse, the hacker now has control of those files - which may contain data you do not want in the hands of a Russian mobster or the North Korean Office of Global Mayhem. 

For a few steps you can take to keep your computer safe, you may wish to follow guidance in this blog post by anti malware firm Malwarebytes. Or if you don't have time to read the whole thing, allow me to summarize:  

1. Backup your files on a regular basis, either to the cloud or to media which is disconnected from your computer when not doing backups. 

2. Consider moving more of your important files to cloud storage - they will be backed up for you and you can let the big guys handle security on your behalf.  We store very few crucial files on our own computers any more.  

3. Install and maintain good sound anti virus and malware protection, and keep it up to date.  They won't stop everything, but it is a good first line of defense. 

4. Update Windows - automatic updates are strongly recommended.  Microsoft even patched older versions of Windows it does not officially support anymore, so even if you are using ancient Windows - get the latest update!  (generally accessed through your Control Panel)

5. Be very very skeptical of anything on the internet.  Most bugs and viruses come into your computer through fraudulent emails or content downloaded from the internet.  Be very suspicious of anything at all unusual.  When in doubt, delete.  Better to miss your friends cat video than to download a virus that will disable your computer and destroy your data!  

Oh - and a tip based on personal experience - when you are seeking to download a driver for that camera or printer - make sure you download ONLY from the printer company's website.  There are many companies that make driver software available online - but it comes laced with adware that will drive you to distraction every time you turn on your computer!