5 Ways to Defend Against Ransomware and Hackers

Hacking and ransomware have turned into an internationally profitable business for criminals and are expected to become a larger, and larger problem.  We must take necessary steps to avoid become victims ourselves.

We can begin by covering 5 primary areas to help protect our assets. They include antivirus, backups, email, router, and the computer state.

1 Antivirus – Your Most Important Line of Defense

Whether you’ve received a virus in an email, on a USB stick, or through a link to a malicious website, your antivirus is the first line of defense. It is able to analyze and react to an attack much quicker than a human and is an essential layer of defense.

GoodAntivirus – Free Version – Recent versions of Microsoft Windows include built-in protection, but adding the “free-version” of an antivirus can add more complete protection.  However, these free versions may not offer continuous or complete protection.  In addition, Apple’s Macintosh operating systems do not include any antivirus, and though they may have fewer viruses written for them, they are still vulnerable. Free antivirus programs can also be useful to find and remove infections that have not been caught with whichever protection you may or may not have.

Better – Antivirus – Paid VersionPaid antivirus versions usually have more complete and continuous coverage such as scheduled scanning, scanning new files, ransomware detection, and a network attack protection. There are many good options, such as Bitdefender, Norton, McAfee, Malwarebytes, Sophos, Webroot, Eset, and TrendMicro.

Even Better – Antivirus Programs With Web-page Filtering help protect against loading malicious websites before an infection starts. If you should try to go to a dangerous link, the antivirus can stop and warn before the web page is loaded. Bitdefender is one of the manufacturers that includes this type of protection.

Best – Partnered Antivirus – Since many users lack the expertise to analyze threat warnings, partnered antivirus is the best option. With this type of package, a live technician is notified and evaluates concerning incidents in order to appraise and take action against threats before it becomes too late.  Sure-fire Computing is a partner with Bitdefender Endpoint Protection

 

2 – Backup –  If Your Data Is Damaged, You Must Have This To Recover

Your files are the most important part of your computer. Files can be damaged by faulty hardware, viruses, hackers or corruption. Suppose your device is hacked or infected, or an attack damages your files. In that case, your backup is the way to recover and continue.

Good – Online Local Backups to a Continuously Attached Drive – There are many types of backups, and this is one of the cheapest and easiest. The adage – “Any-backup-is-better-than-no-backup” is still valid, and although this type of backup is vulnerable, since the backup is also available to the computer system attack, it may survive the damage.  However, since this type of backup is accessible to the computer, it is also accessible to the hacker or ransomware virus.  To improve this type, backup to a separate drive, then disconnect it afterward.

Better – Offline Backups or Cloud Backups– 

With an offline backup, after the backup is complete, the media or drive is taken offline or disconnected, preventing the virus or hacker from attacking the files.  One potential significant drawback is that they must usually be manually performed and thus more prone to being missed.

Cloud Backups – This type can be very successful against viruses and automated ransomware, but may be vulnerable to live hackers.  Usually automated and can be – “set-and-let” to run its schedule.  It should also be tested periodically.  It does protect against on-site damage such as fire, theft, flood, earthquake, falling meteors, etc.

Best – Local AND Cloud backups – Each method has its plus and minuses. Performing both: a local, and a cloud backup compensates for each of their deficiencies or vulnerabilities.

3 – Host-based Email Filtering –

Your antivirus may offer great protection, but having emails scanned, cleaned, and sometimes quarantined before they arrive at your computer is great additional protection.  Some viruses are even able to run without the email being opened.  With proper configuration, users can also be made aware of a deceptive sender via email flagging, as well as granular control of spam messages filtering.
This protection is usually offered only through the email hosting company or one of its partners.  Hosting provider “Godaddy” offers this type of protection for its “Hosted-Exchange” product for an additional fee.

4 – Router –

The router is the last point before a hacker or virus enters your network – it’s often called a hardware firewall. Almost all routers have a “firewall”, offering protection against hackers or robots directly attacking your computer, but their software can be old and vulnerable to hackers with knowledge of their “security holes”.

GoodRecently Replaced Router – If your router has been replaced in the last 2 or 3 years, you’re in good shape. A new router will likely have a recent update installed, which can close recently discovered security holes and vulnerabilities.

Better –  Update The Router – .  Many routers offer updates for two years (after the manufacturing date) that will patch discovered vulnerabilities and bugs with recent “bios” updates. It is wise to update the router whenever, and while possible.  Even new routers are often eligible for new updates.

Best – Enterprise-level Router.  There can be a significant jump in price for this level. Still, these routers usually feature more frequent and complete updates for the life of the router. They may also contain virus scanning and blocking. Enterprise-level routers are usually superior since they often have fewer security holes while most consumer routers are only updated for program bugs rather than newly discovered security vulnerabilities. These routers can also be set up for alerts and report notifications of attacks or updates for the router.  Sophos is one of these manufacturer that offers a high level of protection for a reasonable price.

5- Go Offline When You’re Done –

To further protect your computer, take it offline when you’re done for the week, or better, when you’re done for the day. Some of the worst attacks and damage also happen on long weekends, when the hackers have an extra day to do their evil, and no one is available to spot warning messages.  If your computer’s operating system is not running and connected to the internet, it is very difficult to infect and attack it.

Good  – Sleep mode – When you’re not using it, put your computer in sleep mode.  When the computer is not fully powered up- viruses or hackers can’t attack the operating system.  However, the system is more prone to wake up than hibernation modes. Sleep mode is quick to enter, and quick to exit out of.

Better – Hibernation mode – Put your computer in hibernation mode. Hibernation is better than sleep mode as the computer is in a deeper suspension mode.  Viruses can’t run, and hackers can do little damage to a computer in this state.  Hibernation mode is available to most computers and it’s the next-best-thing to shutting down the computer.  However, if your computer is still coming out of hibernation mode periodically, it may take additional configuration to keep it there.  For a modern computer, it may take only seconds to enter this mode and seconds to exit this mode; therefore, it should be taken advantage of.

Best – Powered Off/ Shut Down – When in doubt, shut it down.  Obviously a great option, it is the most, but not completely immune state. If the computer is physically connected to the network, the hardware is still a small but potential vulnerability. If your computer is frequently woken from a sleep or hibernation mode, it is best to fully shut off the computer. If your computer requires more than 20 seconds to start up, your computer needs a tune-up.