This topic, PC Security, is one that I have been wanting to write for a long time.
This past week, the company I work for almost got hit with ransomware. Luckily the user thought something was fishy with the email he got and called me over to him. He said that he thinks that something just does not sit well with him being relatively new to the company (he was hired 3 months ago and our company is a large company with offices/branches all over the world). He also does not know all the clients of the company as many don’t always order our goods very often.
They then forwarded a copy of the mail to me and immediately deleted it off of their accounts. I then forwarded it to the group IT heads and while waiting for a response, when I noticed the attachment. Definitely fishy as it had a file named, and not kidding, ‘invoice-random-number.xls.html’.
Lots of people (especially people in finance) will assume that the email is safe, open it, then be surprised it needs your username/password/other info so that the file can be sent to you. If you put in that info, the attackers now have access to whatever account info you have put in.
Now some people put in way too much faith in their anti-virus protection, but don’t seem to realise that if a new virus starts spreading all anti-virus programmes wont pick it up until someone sends them a infected file, they analyse it, then push the updates through to the end user. This is how many early ransomware viruses were spread. All because of someone not thinking straight.
So here are some tips to keep you and your info safe on whatever pc, phone, tablet, etc you may have.
1. Install a reputable anti-virus programme.
There are plenty of reputable anti-virus security programmes around. Many of them have a restricted ‘free’ or ‘trial’ license that would offer barely adequate protection.
Some of the programmes you can try are:
bAvast – www.avast.com
BitDefender – www.bitdefender.com
Kaspersky – www.kaspersky.com
Avg – www.avg.com
There are plenty of others. But these 4 would be the ones I would choose as I personally use all four on different systems. Each one has their own strengths and weaknesses, but it is better. Windows 10 comes with it’s own ‘okay’ anti-virus but I would not trust it.
2. Keep your computer updated.
You read that right. ‘Keep your computer updated’ and you should. Do not leave one piece of software un-patched if there are patches available for it. Many of these patches plug security holes in your system that hackers can make use of to get into your system.
3. Be careful of opening up random emails.
Just because a email subject says ‘requested invoice’ or ‘cute puppy pictures’ or ‘(insert name of famous person) nude video’ and you don’t take a few moments to see who sent you that mail, and you opened it, then congratulations, you have just confirmed your email address as being active to the spammers.
So if you see a someone that emails you regularly all of a sudden show up as a email address in the ‘from’ instead of what they were in the past, contact them via alternate means just to confirm, even if the mail contains a attachment.
Also most companies (by most I mean 99.99999999999999% of all companies, big and small) would send out invoices, as pdf files, not .txt, .doc., .xls or any other kind.
4. Don’t insert random USB flash drives into your computer unless you know what is on that drive.
For me, random USB flash drives that no one know how it got there are like your common street hooker. Sure she may pleasure you for a hour or so and give you something to remind you of the encounter for up to the rest of your life, but so does that random usb drive.
If someone wants to get into your network, they can pose as a ‘client’ if you are a business, intentionally leave a flash drive somewhere with lots of traffic. Some poor sole may plug that drive into their computer in order to find some photo’s to publish onto Facebook or twitter trying to contact the person who left that drive.
All the while when plugging in the drive he/she unknowingly has activated a programme on the flash drive and now it is scouring the pc and network and sending info back to the ‘client’. If you see a random USB drive lying around, keep it somewhere and do not plug it in. If no one comes to claim it then destroy it.
5. Don’t visit click-bait sites on the web.
We’ve all seen those sites or links that say something like ‘Become a billionaire in 30 days’, ‘double the length of your penis in 6 steps’, ‘Homeless man buys a Ferrari’. There are many more examples. Do not click on any of them. They are all lies. Their only purpose is to get you to give them your information for their gain. And they also get paid by people clicking on links on that page.
In fact some of those pages also could contain code that would allow a attacker to get into your computer somehow.
6. Make regular backups of all your most important files.
There are tons of backup programmes available, again with pro’s and cons’. Hell you could even just copy your data onto removable USB flash drives, cloud storage service, etc. Or run a program that does the same thing automatically.
A program I recommend it Crashplan, found here. You can backup as much as you want to their service (as long as you keep up with the monthly fee). So if you want to backup a gigabyte or a terabyte of data, you can do that. You can also set it to backup to a removable hard disk, another pc on the same network or a friends computer at no charge.
7. Don’t visit sites that offer software for too good a price.
If you need a piece of software (such as Autocad, office, Windows, etc) that is very expensive but all of a sudden you see someone offering it at a super deep discount, do not take them up on it.
Some of these sites may have stolen the activation keys <bought with stolen credit cards, stolen though hack, etc> and then tell you if you need support to not go through the developer and rather the seller, then something is wrong.
Rather support the developers directly.
8. Don’t download pirated software.
Again do not visit any torrent sites to download any software which would normally cost any amount of for free. Many of these could have viruses embedded into them, and end up causing more issues when you try to update the said programs.
Those are just a few of my top tips for keeping your PC more secure.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to add whatever tips/solutions you may have to make your computer more secure.