Tuesday, February 24, 2015

From Trojans to Ransom Notes: Protect Yourself!

Don't let this Trojan Horse come in and attack your protected work.

Remember the Greek mythology story about the Trojan Horse? During the Trojan War, Greek soldiers hid inside the Trojan Horse to trick the Trojans into letting them inside their city walls. Well, it worked and there was destruction.

Hidden dangers still occur today in our digital society only with what is called a Trojan-ransom virus (ransomware) which infects your computer, through files, data, programs. Once you've been hit, here is no way to retrieve all your important information unless you have the encryption key. How do you get that encryption key?

You guessed it, by paying a ransom. Typically, it's $100, sometimes more.  Obviously there is no way of knowing if the cyber criminals will actually release the key to you. Usually there is a timer which pops up and counts down the hours, minutes until your files are lost forever. 

This type of reoccurring infection is nothing new. Sure, there are new viruses which pop up and have different algorithms associated with them all the time,  but this type of illegal electronic activity has been going on for awhile. It still surprises me when I hear about friends, students, and colleagues being infected because it can be avoided easily. If your computer has been attacked you will need to remove it or seek professional help. Honestly, many times there is no way of retrieving the lost files.  

What can you do? Use common sense and be proactive. You may have heard these types of tips before, so review and remember!
  • Make sure you have anti-virus software on your computer. Duh. There are many households which do not purchase anti-virus software, or don't install it properly or don't keep it updated. This is important! You wash your hands all the time, don't you? Doesn't take that long, neither does keeping your anti-virus program current by running the updates.
  • Don't open email attachments or click on website links that you are unsure about. Again, common sense, but this is one of the fastest ways to spread a virus and people keep doing it. Just like you wouldn't open your door to some unusual stranger or share openly private information with someone you don't know or trust, don't open or share anything you are suspicious of.
  • Block the pop-ups! They are annoying anyways. Sure, some of them are from advertisers, but many contain malicious codes that when clicked take you to a corrupt link. You're not going to win $1 million by clicking on that pop-up, so don't do it.
  • Use a firewall. If you don't know what that means, here's a basic explanation: a network or program which inhibits or blocks unauthorized access to your computer whether you have a Mac or Windows system.
  • Back it up, back it up! There are many ways you can back up your important files, data, etc. You can use programs such a Google Drive, external hard drives and One Drive. Beware of Dropbox and programs like Dropbox,it is not completely protected from viruses either. 
  • Don't download anything (programs, files, emails, etc) unless you are absolutely sure it is safe. No need for further explanation, right?
Protect yourself and don't spread any viruses!

Still curious how it works, check out this video.


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