Author: Mark Cargill

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UK Hit by Ransomware Attack – What does this mean for me?

I guess we’ve all heard about this malware attack that’s hitting us now – very scary stuff – and I hear you ask yourselves:

  • Will this affect me?
  • What do I do if I get infected?
  • How do I stop myself getting infected?

Three very important questions I’m sure are on everyone’s tongue today – and where there are very definite answers:

It could affect everyone, but thankfully there are things that you can do that will reduce your risk, if not remove it all together.

So, what do I do if I get infected?

The answer to this isn’t all straightforward.  You will need someone who is experienced with reinstalling your data and Windows back to a state before the infection (a process called restoring) or someone who can do a complete re-install of Windows from scratch.  You will of course need a recent backup of your data (documents, pictures, music and videos etc.)  If you don’t have a backup, the question that pops up is why not?

One thing that you must not do is pay the ransom – this just funds the criminal(s) that perpetrated this hack in the first place and allows them to continue with further attacks in the future.  Most of these people are tied to organised criminal gangs.

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ParadigmIT can help you with some of these issues – get in touch with us!

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How do I stop myself getting infected?

This is easier than you think.  Here’s my list of top tips

Install Virus protection

This is a must.  ParadigmIT have seen many computers—especially home computers—that don’t have anti-virus/malware protection. This protection is a must-have first step in keeping your computer virus free – and this includes Apple Mac computers!  You also need to keep the virus protection you have installed up to date.  This is usually automatic whenever you connect to the internet.  There are many free virus checkers out there to download and you can look here for a review of some of the best from the Techradar blog.

Run Regular Anti-Virus Scans

Set up your software of choice to run at regular intervals. Once a week is good, but don’t wait much longer between scans. Your computer will run a bit slower while your anti-virus software is running. One thing to do is to run the software at night when you aren’t using your computer, but as we often turn off our computers at night, and so the scan never runs, set your anti-virus software to run on a specific night, and always leave your computer running on that day. Make sure it doesn’t shut off automatically or go to sleep.

Keep up with Windows Updates

Microsoft and Apple both supply updates to your operating system (Windows or MacOS) and you should make sure that when you get notified, you install any updates promptly – this will keep the security of your operating system current.

Secure Your Network (WiFi)

Make sure that when you get your broadband router that you follow instructions supplied with it to change your default WiFi password to something more secure.  Also make sure that you change the wireless encryption to at least WPA2 – this will make sure that all your data flying over your network in the house is encrypted and cannot be seen by hackers.  Also make sure that you change the administrator login to your router to a more secure password – don’t leave the default password in place!

Think Before Clicking!

Avoid websites that provide pirated material like bittorrent sites. Do not open an email attachment from somebody, or a company that you do not know. Do not click on a link in an unsolicited email. Always hover over a link (especially one with a URL shortener) before you click to see where the link is really taking you. If you must download a file from the Internet, an email, an FTP site, a file-sharing service, etc., scan it before you run it. A good anti-virus software will do that automatically, but make sure it is being done.

Backup your files (and… BACKUP YOUR FILES!)

This is the most important tip we can give you.  If you have a backup of your data (documents, pictures, music and videos etc.) then you can do a re-install of Windows or MacOS and copy your backed-up data into the correct place again.  This means that you can recover from a virus or malware disaster more quickly.  There are a lot of cloud based backup services available (Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, Box and Google Drive to name a few) and most of these will give you a free account and free storage that you can use to copy your data to.

For more information about backing up your data, there’s some good information from the QuickandDirtyTips blog.

Windows 10…… Should I?

ParadigmIT-Blog-Windows10

We’re coming to the end of the free offer period from Microsoft.

Should you partake of their free offer and get Windows 10 onto your desktop or laptop?

There are many reasons to take the free offer and update to Windows 10 – least of which is the ability to downgrade and keep your free digital entitlement license if you decide you don’t want it after all – as long as you haven’t run disk cleanup and it’s less than a month since the upgrade to Windows 10 (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-10/going-back-to-windows-7-or-windows-81)

Windows 10 is the upgrade that Windows 8 should have been.  A proper working Start menu that combines the traditional ‘Desktop’ menu from Windows 7 combined with the ‘Metro Block’ interface from Windows 8 just for tablet users – and a pure tablet mode for those user that liked the ‘Metro’ blocky menu (and there surely aren’t many of those going around!)

The upgrade itself is easy to do.  Look next to your clock on your desktop for the white Windows flag icon, click it and follow the instructions – just be sure that your machine (desktop or laptop) is powered up and plugged in, you have at least 8GB of hard disk space free – and that you have anywhere between 1-4 hours of your life to waste waiting on it downloading and installing.

Bear in mind that you’ll only see the flag icon to upgrade if you have a qualifying version of Windows installed:

  • Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic and Home premium versions will upgrade to Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate will upgrade to Windows 10 Pro
  • Windows 8.1 Home will upgrade to Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 8.1 Pro & Pro for Students will upgrade to Windows 10 Pro
  • Windows Phone 8.1 will upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile (Check with your provider for upgrade availability)

The Pros

Windows 10 generally runs a lot more smoothly on most hardware – even with just 4GB of RAM (although 8GB is better).  If upgrading an older laptop, I would advise an upgrade to an SSD (Solid State Drive) from your old hard disk.

It has better hardware detection than previous versions of Windows (and indeed, the compatibility tester will tell you of any problems before the upgrade which is nice – thanks Microsoft!)

It’s a much nicer desktop – and will breathe fresh air into your old device

You’ll get the latest software technology for nada!

Networking is (in our tests) generally quicker – if you have a newer laptop (within the last year or so) it seems that throughput in wireless terms is a bit quicker, but this may be due to better driver technology inside Windows 10.

The Cons

I would say that as long as the compatibility tester gives your device a clean bill of health, there aren’t many.

The only problems can be with older external devices like printers and scanners (although there is a very nice ‘add older hardware’ wizard to help with this process which generally works well).

The sum up

It’s worth getting in on the free upgrade from Microsoft whilst you can if your device is offered one.  You can always downgrade again within the month if you feel that you want to.  Windows 10 is a very nice OS and will give your device a new lease of life.  If you need advice about your upgrade, please leave a comment and we’ll do our best to answer you!

Have fun upgrading, and remember you’ve only got until the 29th July 2016 to get it free before Microsoft starts to charge!

Read More about the upgrade

Microsoft Windows Upgrade Page

Microsoft help with Windows 10 Upgrade Page

Which? Impartial Windows 10 Review

Expert Reviews page on Windows 10 New Security Features

Ransomware – The relentless money march

Ransomware – The relentless money march

Ghosts in the Machine

I was reading a story today on ZDNET – a tech blog, about the relentless march of ransomware across our planet.  It seems (to some security experts) that this blight on our daily lives is only set to get worse over the coming 24 months.  Infections of this type of malware are at an all-time high – up almost 40% in 2016, we’re only into its first quarter.

Why is this becoming such big business?  Simple.  It’s the outlay by the criminal gangs.  Very little or none.  It’s an easy business to start up, you can reach (read infect) a staggering amount of people in very little time, and the money returned can be huge.

McAfee Labs “saw more than 4 million samples of ransomware in the second quarter of 2015, including 1.2 million that were new, and expects those instances to grow in 2016. That compares to fewer than 1.5 million total samples in the third quarter 2013, when fewer than 400,000 were new.” Says Security Magazine.

This is a very worrying trend in this type of malware – one which could be mitigated by a little forethought.

What can I do to stop me getting infected?

You can do a few things to help yourself.  Make sure you have a decent virus checker installed – one that will deal with malware as well is always good.

The above list is not exhaustive – there are plenty more alternatives available.  Toms Guide has a very good review of the top 10 in 2016.

When browsing the World Wide Web, make sure that you have your wits about you.  Seeing an advert on a website that looks too good to be true means that it generally is!  Don’t be tempted to click through websites offering you the latest diet trend, quick ways to make money with no outlay, the latest miracle cure for cancer or those that offer free things for filling out a simple marketing questionnaires (unless you’re sure its legitimate).

Being aware of your surroundings when browsing or downloading software from the Internet can prevent the majority of infections and keep you safe whilst browsing.

If you do get infected, there are many companies out there that can be called on to help remove the infection and return your computer to a good working state.  Bear in mind though, if you do get infected by ransomware, the chances are that you will have lost all of your personal data – and more often than not, you will have to re-install all of your software / windows so keep backups of your files!

If you want to read more about this subject, the aforementioned story on ZDNET is available here.

That’s it from me for now, safe and happy interwebbing!