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Malware is getting nastier, but that shouldn’t matter

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | April 12, 2016
Sure, cybercriminals are always improving their wares, but nothing has changed about how our machines actually get infected.

Seriously, ma and pa may be fine people, but they’re probably not security experts. If someone has a good reason to be sending you, say, a docx file, go ahead and open it. If they don’t, then leave it untouched.

I’ll make this even simpler: If you don’t know what something is, don’t click on it!

Next, let’s look at Maktub Locker and other ransomware programs for half a minute.

Ransomware works only if you’re fool enough to break all the rules I listed above. Once you have a dose, it encrypts your files and tells you to fork over $300 to $500 in Bitcoins, or your files have had it. After you pay up, and if you’re dealing with honest crooks, they’ll give you a key to decrypt your documents, pictures and all the rest. But — shocker! — not all crooks are honest.

Now, what simple thing should you have been doing every day to prevent any need of ever paying such ransoms?

I’ll wait.

How many of you said, “Back up my files”?

Congratulations. You need never fear ransomware. Making current backups is all it takes to mitigate ransomware’s effects.

Yes, you’d still need to clean your PC of the malware, but the vast majority of your files will be safe and sound. It’s a different story when a major business gets hit, such as the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. But, even there, if the hospital had simply practiced regular backups — and it seems it didn’t — it could gotten back 99% of its data at no cost, and it would have been much safer to boot. I mean, after all, just how trustworthy do you think someone is who just locked down a hospital’s data, anyway?

So here’s one more commandment you should have already known:

5)    Thou shalt always back up thy data.

What ticks me off the most about this entire mess is that there’s really no news story here. The attacks never should have gotten through. Even if they did, they should have been useless.

The real story is that, in 2016, we are still making the same dumb mistakes we made in the ’90s. So remember: Don’t click on unknown files or links, and do make nightly backups. It’s not that hard!


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