Protecting yourself from hackers

PIXABAY

By Staff report

Arcadia city administrator Terry Stewart at a council meeting advised its members that precautions are taken to protect software and computer assets. Ransomware is the talk in government circles, he said, as it costs millions of taxpayer dollars. These hackers will invade business, civic and personal computers, hold users hostage until a fee or ransom is paid.

Here are tips from industry insiders to better protect yourself from ransomware dangers. These tips are taken from various sources.

Q. What kind of software should I use?

A. An up-to-date anti-malware program like Bitdefender Antivirus Plus and Webroot Secure Anywhere Antivirus (both less than $40). PCMag.com is one site that regularly reviews and rates new security software, and you can find reviews from other technology sites around the web.

ZoneAlarm Anti-Ransomware is available to download with a free 30-day trial, Trend Micro’s page has free or trial ransomware protection programs, and Bitdefender has a free anti-ransomware tool.

In addition to security software, assuming a stance of defensive computing can help shield you from internet scammers. Steer clear of links and file attachments in messages from people you do not know (or from friends who do not seem to be themselves, possibly because of hacking), for example. Keep your system files backed up regularly so you have copies in case something does happen to your system. The Federal Trade Commission’s OnGuard Online site has tips and videos on protecting yourself from ransomware and other internet threats.

Q. My computer’s antivirus program is going nuts lately blocking something called “Locky.”

A. “Locky” is a type of malicious software known as ransomware, which as the name suggests, encrypts the files on your computer and will not release them until you give a hefty payment to your unseen attackers. Locky is aimed at Windows systems and has been spreading this spring through waves of phishing spam messages. The ransomware can arrive on your computer hidden in an email attachment, like an infected Microsoft Office document (one that prompts you to enable Office macros) or as a bit of JavaScript codetucked inside a .zip file. (Because it can better evade some antivirus programs, the JavaScript version has been increasingly widespread as of late.)

You can take basic steps to protect yourself from ransomware infection. Keep your antivirus program and operating system up-to-date with the latest security patches. Do not open any unsolicited file attachments from unknown senders—or even unexpected attachments from people you know, in case their computers have been compromised.

Disable macro commands in Microsoft Office files you receive by email and if possible, log into your computer with a more limited standard account instead of the all-powerful administrator account. Some ransomware can encrypt files on drives attached to the PC, so back up your computer’s files regularly, and keep a copy of the backup on an unconnected external drive or server.

Ransomware is not just a Windows problem. Mac users should also be on guard against the OS X/KeRanger-A ransomware and its variants, which can extort a high price in exchange for getting your computer’s files back.

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