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.

I’m inherently lazy……that’s why some gadgets work for me

May 2017 - Gadgets Blog

The trick is choosing the right gadget, not just buying it because it’s the latest thing.

Let’s take my Apple Watch as an example.  What benefit is it to me?

Known to being partial to buying a new gadget and usually favouring an Apple gadget people were surprised when it took me almost 2 years to buy an Apple Watch.  In fact because I always carry my iPhone I’d even stopped wearing a watch.  Now I have one on my wrist every day, and to be honest it doesn’t even look like a watch, which was one of the things that originally put me off.

So why now?  What changed?

My sister-in-law bought one and after ‘playing with it’ I was hooked and bought mine a week later.

There are two major benefits so far:

  • The activity rings
  • The ease of using RunKeeper as my fitness tracker

As with all gadgets their usefulness is down to the user, and how they interact with it.

The Apple Watch, Fitbits, Garmins are all great in their own way, and all measure and prompt you to do various things really well.  But, they can’t make you actually do them, so you have to be susceptible to being prompted.

I’ve noticed a number of advertisements about the Apple Watch’s 3 activity rings over the past few months.

Apple Activity RingsThey’re a prime example for me.   The watch’s 3 starting goals are:

  • Burn 400 calories by moving every day
  • Do 30 mins of exercise every day
  • Stand for a minute every hour 12 times a day

I’ve been known to sit in front of my computer working for hours on end, not taking regular breaks.  As a result I’ve been a regular client at Knots Away Massage Therapy and In Touch Therapies due to pain in my shoulders.

As much as I know I should stand up and move away from the screen every so often I don’t, yet when the watch prompts me I actually do it.  So is there a link between me not having so much pain in my shoulders over the past few months?  If this continues then the watch will have paid for itself by the end of the year 😄

As an added bonus, having been in London for a couple of days I found the ease of using my Apple Watch as a means of contactless payment was great.  No longer did I have to have my phone out and ready, or a contactless card in hand.  It made getting off and on the DLR and the Tube so much easier!

It’s interaction with with Runkeeper means I can start tracking my runs and cycles by simply using the watch.  My phone sits in my armband and I no longer have to mess about trying to set the activity off when it’s already strapped to my upper arm.

What about other gadgets?

What other gadgets do I spend money on because I am too lazy to do things myself or to prompt myself?

Honeywell EvoHomeBritish Gas’s Hive – lets you switch the heating on and off whilst you are away from home.  Honeywell’s EvoHome does the same thing but also allows you to add individual radiator controls so rather than setting one temperature for the whole house you can control individual rooms.  The individual controls let me heat rooms only when I’m actually using them.  When I turn the heating up because it’s turned cooler I’m too lazy to go into other rooms and turn the radiators down, even though I know I won’t be using those rooms for a few hours.  With EvoHome I can turn up the temperature in just the room I’m using.  It took just 18 months for me to save enough on my heating bills to cover my initial investment.  Since then everything is a saving.

WeMoWhat else?  Using WeMo allows me to remotely switch on the light at my front door when I’m heading home after dark, no longer do I switch the light on in the daylight when I go out knowing I won’t be back until dark.

I replaced my kettle with a tap ‘gadget’ that provides instant boiling water.  I no longer get up to make a drink and then get distracted when the kettle is boiling so that in the end I’ve  boiled the kettle 2 or 3 times before I actually make that drink.  This gadget will probably take longer to pay for itself, but knowing I’m easily distracted then it’s perfect for me.

So, as I said, with all the gadgets out there, the trick is knowing yourself and buying the gadget that works for you, not just because it’s the latest craze 😉

 

 

Email versus Contacts – Which is more important?

ParadigmIT-Blog-EmailvsContacts

The truth is that these days you can access your email on just about any device.

Most email accounts can be accessed via the web, on a desktop using an email client such as Outlook, on an iPhone or a Samsung, and any other smartphone using an appropriate app. All you need to know is your username and your password, and most email providers provide FAQ’s on how to set it up on any of the available devices if more settings are needed.

As long as it is set as an IMAP account then it means then whether you are looking your mailbox on your iPhone or on your laptop you will be able to see all the emails you have received and sent, and those that you’ve filed into folders.

IMAP allows you to synchronise your email between multiple devices.  Why is this important?  Because most people now have at least two devices – their laptop or desktop, and their smartphone.

What we don’t tend to consider is being able to access your contacts from any of the devices.

What happens when you want to access your contacts list from your desktop computer?

Example:
You’ve been using a Gmail account and are now moving to your new business email account.  You still want to access your old Gmail account and all of your contacts that are attached to that account.

You can use the Gmail app to access other email accounts, and to send email from them, and because you’re using the app you can access the contacts stored in the Gmail account. All great, but it does not sync your email because you have to connect the non-Gmail accounts as POP3 accounts, and POP3 simply downloads the email to your device, it doesn’t sync any changes back to the mail server.

The result:

  • Access to email – YES
  • Access to contacts – YES
  • Changes synced to any device – NO

Most of the places that store contacts—Google, iCloud, Outlook—let you import and export them, so there is the option of piecing together a master list from all of your different devices.

At present iCloud and Outlook do come close without using a third party app.

I use mainly Apple devices, I store my contacts using iCloud and away from my iPhone and iPad I use Outlook to manage my multiple email addresses.  If I was using Windows on my laptop, then I could use iCloud for Windows to access my iCloud contacts and calendar in Outlook.  Strangely, because I use Outlook 2016 for a Mac I can’t do the same thing.  Why?  “Outlook 2016 for Mac currently doesn’t support the CalDAV or CardDAV internet standards. This means that it’s not possible to synchronise your iCloud Calendar or contacts with Outlook 2016 for Mac.”

What about the contacts you have stored in Facebook or on Twitter, or in LinkedIn?

The key thing here is to plan.

Think about what email accounts you need to access, how you need to access them, and how you will need to access your contacts.  Then right at the start put in the time to export contacts from your various sources to create one big master list, which you then import into your chosen program.  Most of the sources will let you export as a .CSV file so it’s not a case of manually creating that import file.

There are apps that do a lot of the hard work for you, and offer some level of cross-platform syncing to keep everything in order.  It’s fair to say that with a little more development using one of these apps may be the way to go.  For example Full Contact was launched in February 2016.  It allows you to “control your social, email, and mobile contacts from one dashboard”, and is free for up to 5,000 contacts and has a two-way sync between Google, Exchange/Office 365 or iCloud.  With apps for iOS, Android, the Web and Gmail, though no desktop app.  Also check out Zoho, it also links in tasks and notes.

As I’ve said, the main thing here is to plan.  

Good luck!  And remember, the time spent at this stage is an investment in what will be a successful business.

 

Glossary

IMAP – IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is a standard email protocol that stores email messages on a mail server, but allows the end user to view and manipulate the messages as though they were stored locally on the end user’s computing device(s).

POP3 – POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) is the most recent version of a standard protocol for receiving e-mail. POP3 is a client/server protocol in which e-mail is received and held for you by your Internet server.

CalDAV – Calendaring Extensions to WebDAV, or CalDAV, is an Internet standard allowing a client to access scheduling information on a remote server.