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Archive for the ‘Cyber-Crime’ Category

Ransomware and You

Posted by Writing PIs on May 15, 2021

After the recent ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, it’s a good time to quickly review what to do should you get hacked and ways to safeguard your devices. After all, cybercriminals don’t just go for the “big corporations,” but sometimes everyday people, too.

Cyber-Criminals Locked A Writer’s Computer Hard Drive

One Click Opened Her Computer to a Cyber-Criminal
One Click and the Cyber-Criminals Gained Control of Her Computer Hard Drive

Several years back, a writer-friend was nearing the end of writing a novel when, out of the blue, cyber-criminals blocked access to all the files on her hard drive. A horrible situation as her book was due in several weeks and she could no longer access any of her book files.

The cyber-criminals demanded a ransom if she wanted access to her files again. Hoping her computer-tech shop could find a way to get her files back, she took in her computer for analysis. Unfortunately, they could do nothing, only verify that her hard drive had been locked by “ransomware.”

Ransom Kept Increasing

Meanwhile, every day the cyber-criminals increased the ransom. With a heavy heart, she finally paid the ransom ($5 thousand), and access to her files was returned. She immediately bought a new computer, a different brand, and her tech-computer shop helped set up her files along with cyber-security software.

How Did It Happen?

Cyber-criminals gained access to her computer after she clicked on a single link in an email she thought was sent by a close friend (the return email address had her friend’s full name, so she assumed it was from that person).

A reminder to all of us to exercise caution about opening links in an email or any other electronic communication. Personally, we never open links in any emails, e-messages, etc., until after we’ve verified with that sender (by a phone call, etc.) that they really sent that link.

Six Tips to Safeguard Your Computer

  1. Maintain updated computer software & apps. Setting up automatic updates is ideal because if you or your webmaster randomly log in to update software/apps, there could be bugs present prior to the update, and bugs = vulnerabilities.
  2. Download from official sites only. There’s a lot of free stuff available for download on the Internet, but you can end up downloading a lot of problems along with that freebie app, program, whatever. Therefore, download from official sites only. It’s also a good idea to be conservative in the number of downloads, too.
  3. Create unique passwords with upper & lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. I know, you’ve probably heard this password warning a gazillion times, but making passwords easy to guess, or using the same password across multiple sites, invites a cyber-criminal to pay a visit. Some people say you shouldn’t use a password manager as some are fraudulent. I don’t use a password manager, nor do I have any idea which ones might be corrupted, so I’ll leave that topic for you to further research.
  4. Cover your computer camera. Seems hackers have taken over people’s computer cameras without their knowledge (with no light indicators alerting the users, either). I can see the reasoning behind this — for example, you’re speaking to someone on your phone about a confidential business manner while you’re at your computer, that dialogue could be captured by cyber-criminals. Even if the audio isn’t captured, the computer user is so close to the camera, lip-reading could be easy. Covering the camera with a piece of tape is easy to do. Then remove the tape when you want to use the camera.
  5. Use encryption software. CNET has an Encryption page with articles about many different facets of encryption, from router settings, to how to use Skype’s end-to-end encryption feature, and more: CNET Encryption
  6. Backups. Regularly back up your files (especially those book files, writers!), and store them offline. (Thanks, @Mededitor)

Additional Resources

Stay Safe Online: Tips for keeping a clean computer, protecting your personal files and more.

Homeland Security: Events, tips, and related links for National Cyber Security Awareness Month.


All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy/distribute any images – these are licensed by the author, who does not have legal authority to share with others. 

Posted in Cyber-Crime | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Ransomware and You

 
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