Let’s get personal today – I want to warn you for something that’s been going around the web. I wrote this article a few weeks back, but I guess now is the time to share. I have one (sometimes two) standard days in the week that I backup my whole life. This is probably the #1 most important task I have because without my digital files I would be nowhere.
No job, no photos, no friends (lol, without the social accounts, email accounts or my phone addresses, I could not contact most of them) and basically, no life. If you have ever experienced a hack before, you know the panicky feeling of losing access to one account. Imagine losing access to your complete digital life?!
Last week we talked about your emergency fund and the importance of working on it now before it’s too late. In this blog post I want to stress something urgent: I bet your business emergency fund isn’t $150.000. Why you need it? Ransomware.
Would you pay criminals $150,000 to get your computer files back? I would not, because I don’t have that kind of money laying around. But this is what CEOs of big companies pay more and more often these days when they receive that scary message that’s something like this: “we have taken over your computer, you cannot access any files (we have encrypted them), unless you pay us $150,000.”
The scary thing about this is, you’re dealing with criminals, and paying does not guarantee you get access to your files. And these days, our WHOLE life = on our computers.
- ALL YOUR BUSINESS FILES + DOCS
- PRIVATE CLIENT INFORMATION
- YOUR PHOTOS. YOUR TRAVEL PHOTOS, YOUR PRIVATE PHOTOS…
- COPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT
- PASSWORDS OF YOUR BANK ACCOUNT, CREDIT CARD, PAYPAL ACCOUNT, AND ALL OTHER SITES…
I know this probably doesn’t interest you, but let’s talk privacy & online protection. A few years back ransomware was just a ‘private’ attack, but nowadays more and more CEOs and business owners are ‘attacked’. If you’re new to me, you don’t know it yet, but I’m a big internet freedom fighter, and I want privacy and secure files. I have to, traveling as much as I do, browsing from different open wifi’s all the time. As a small business owner, there’s not an immediate threat, but be aware of the possibility. Don’t click links/open emails from suspicious looking people and knowing that ransomware exists and locks your files exists, is already a big win. So, you’re welcome.
This is how you can protect yourself today
- Keep up with ‘industry news’. The easiest way is Reddit! This way, you’ll be in the know about new ways these criminals work.
- The biggest thing that will defeat ransomware is having a regularly updated backup. Backup all your data. Preferably on standard times / days. I have a notification in my iPhone – but it’s already in my weekly routine incorporated and it’s the first thing I do on that day. In the Cloud (OneDrive (sign-up for your account for free via my personal link and we both receive 0.5GB extra for free!), Google Drive, Dropbox) and on external hard drives. Make sure that not only your photos but also your WordPress database/files, Phone data, Computer files (TimeMachine) and all other things that are important for you are backed up. So when they get you, you’ll only lose the files you created that day (or week). Also, try to change your passwords often (every 4 weeks).
I always travel with this Seagate 2TB external hard drive, it’s cheap and fast and it’s USB powered. Shop at Target for $89.99, which is fairly cheap for 2 TB!
- Disconnect your external hard drives / USB thumb drives when you don’t backup. I often forget this, but try to be super strict about it. When they encrypt/lock your computer, they will also get to all attached drives. ?
- Learn the very basic tech stuff. I seriously believe that this is the #1 reason why this happens: people don’t know the difference between an .EXE or .PDF file. Always check before you download something!
- If you get an email, NEVER click on files that are named ‘.PDF.EXE’. This will be a sneaky way to start the ransomware program (on Windows obviously. On Mac it’s PDF.dmg that will start a program)
- Always use good security and antivirus software. Sophos is available for Mac and iPhone, because they say that Mac’s are automatically protected for malware and viruses but that’s not true. It’s just not as common as on Windows. That’s why there are more Anti-virus programs for Windows than Mac. Sophos is free!
- Never download or torrent programs illegally to your computer. For most programs, there are affordable solutions like cloud programs or cheaper software available. Think twice about downloading that Adobe program from a torrent website, because you never know what they add to the files.
- If you suspect they run a program on your computer: DISCONNECT wifi/internet immediately to stop the encryption. Encryption can take a while, so let’s hope that you stopped it in time.
Unfortunately, protection for cyber criminality changes quickly, and you have to keep a close eye to tech news, one day a company is safe, the next it’s filled with Malware or bought by Facebook. (I’m referring here to ZenMate and Whatsapp).
I know the thought of ransomware can be very scary, so better be prepared right! That’s why I’m sending writing this. Have your backups in order, have an emergency fund ready. Joining my new course is a step forward to your own emergency fund.
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