Ransomware – It Makes You Wanna Cry!

This column was originally written in early June 2016.  Since that time there has been a reincarnation of the WannaCry virus that is apparently more sophisticated than the earlier version.
Thank goodness the ransomware scare of mid-May is receding into memory.  In this particular case we are of mixed feelings about the media frenzy on this subject.  On the one hand, we don’t think that the news reports clarified adequately that the vast majority of ordinary users were not in jeopardy from this particular attack.   On the other hand, it’s never a bad thing to remind people of their vulnerability and make them learn how to protect themselves.
Here is a link to the best article we have seen on this subject, and we have pulled out some of the best ideas (black) and added in some of our own thoughts (red) as well.
There are also steps that can be taken to protect against ransomware more generally. These include:
  • Make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date and updating all software  It is extremely important for us all to take the time to become familiar with our anti-virus software – when it is turned on, or off; when it is updating regularly, and how to respond if it ever gives warnings.
  • Back up copies of data  If you are backing up data to an external device like a USB flash drive or an external hard disk, you should disconnect the device when it is not actually in the process of backing up, so that it cannot be infected if your computer is attacked.
  • Scrutinize links and files contained in emails  This is the single most important thing that you must do.  NEVER click on a link in an email if you are not absolutely certain that it is legitimate.  In the case of the link that we included above, for example… the link is detailed and is directly related to our detailed description of what the link is about.  That should assure you that it is not dangerous.  Without that kind of legitimization, you should NOT have clicked on it if you received it in a message.
  • Only download software from trusted sources See our recent column and blog post titled “Have I Reached the Party to Whom I Am Speaking?” which goes into detail on the subject of bogus web sites and software sources.

By now we are all familiar with the messages from our “friends” that didn’t really come from them, because hacking of address books is as common as this year’s flu.  The bogus messages always contain a link to bad stuff.  There is one simple little thing that we believe could be very helpful in the fight against this kind of spam: You should take the time to create a distinctive signature that appears at the end of all of your email messages. If your regular correspondents get used to seeing that signature (and perhaps you might mention this to them) then they will be rightly suspicious of a message supposedly sent by you that does not contain it. Make your signature eye-catching and distinctive, and your friends will eventually  learn that if they ever got a message from you that didn’t contain it, they should suspect that it is spam and immediately delete it.

My signature at the end of this posting might seem like overkill, but my friends have mentioned it to me, which means that they have noticed it and might also take note if I got hacked and it were missing.

Talos, the digital threat division of Cisco Systems reported in January that more than 86% of all email is spam, and we can be extremely grateful that the email providers are now successfully blocking over 99% of it.  All the same, fraudulent email carries the most significant threats to  our computer use.  Even if we could just avoid clicking on those spurious links in the spam messages, we would be making a huge step in avoiding malware.

My example of a “distinctive signature”:

John Harding / Compu-Home
Compu-Home Business Phone  613-731-5954

One Response to “Ransomware – It Makes You Wanna Cry!”

  1. Edna M says:

    Why is it that I am receiving downloads of e-mails into my In-box from last year.
    I am gradually deleting them as there are so many. Has it to do with those flairs coming off the sun
    disrupting communications. Thanks kindly.