Everyday Tips from the ComputerMom 

April 2016
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Well, April Fools to me - I'm sitting here writing this newsletter watching a snowstorm out my window! The good news is that the snow will melt soon, and we will all be complaining about the heat!

On a more serious note, encryption viruses, which I first wrote about in 2013, are increasingly common, and have been in the news a lot recently. It seems a good time to revisit the problem and my recommendations to keep your data safe.

Julie Marto 

508-333-8176 (cell)

P.S. Did Windows 10 install itself when you weren't looking? I can make it work better for you with a single one hour appointment!
Encryption Viruses Revisited

Imagine if someone grabbed all your family pictures and important papers, locked them in a safe, and forced you to pay a ransom before you could  get them back. This is what happens if you get infected with an encryption virus.

It's been a few years since I first wrote on this topic, and in that time these types of viruses have just gotten more prevalent. My own town, Medfield, was hit by one and had to pay the ransom to regain access to their files. Unlike other types of viruses, Mac users aren't necessarily safe - a Mac version of this type of virus has been found in the wild.

So, how do you protect yourself? Here are my recommendations:
  • Be very careful opening attachments in emails. The most common way these viruses are spread is through PDF and Word attachments in bogus emails. This is why they have been particularly devastating to businesses, as businesses receive and open many attached documents daily as a matter of course. If you get an email with an attachment and don't recognize the sender or didn't expect the document, don't click on the attachment!
  • Backup your files, but don't keep your backup drive attached to your computer. This type of virus will encrypt the files on any drive attached to your system, ruining your backup. So your safest options are to either use an online backup service like Carbonite, Mozy, or Crashplan, or to disconnect your backup drive except when you are actually backing up your files. The wisest approach is to have multiple types of backup - local as well as online. Cover your bases!
  • For those of you with a library of precious family photos, use an automatic cloud based service like Google Photos and iCloud Photo Library - your photos will not only be stored safely online, they will also be accessible on multiple devices.
  • For PC users, make sure you have a current, up to date anti-virus installed, and also install an encryption virus protection tool, such as my favorite, Cryptoprevent. Other good prevention programs include the pay version of Malwarebytes AntiMalware, and Hitman Pro Alert.
  • For Mac users, always install the most recent version of OSX, currently El Capitan, and also make sure you install any updates Apple offers you. Apple has built in protection for this type of virus but ONLY if you keep your OS updated!
If you do click on a suspicious attachment and fear you have downloaded one of these viruses, shut down your computer right away and call me! It takes a while for all of your files to be encrypted, and your computer has to be on for it to happen. Recovery and clean up is possible if the virus hasn't had a chance to run in the background. If, unfortunately, you end up with a fully encrypted drive, it's actually worthwhile to replace that drive with a new one and set the encrypted one aside, hoping that eventually law enforcement will catch the crooks and release their stored keys - it's already happened more than once!
Facebook Highlights

As many of you know, I post links to interesting and helpful articles on my ComputerMom Facebook page. For those of you who don't use Facebook, or haven't "liked" my page, here are some of my most recent posts.
  • After upgrading to Windows 10, I found myself annoyed by how slowly my Downloads folder opened up. Then I found this great, easy fix.
  • And finally, iPhone owners should check out this article explaining hidden features that help you make the most of your iPhone!