Computer security is a lot like health insurance. No one enjoys paying for either one or taking the time to set them up, and when things are going well; both often take a back seat to other priorities.
It’s not until a disaster strikes the unprotected that anyone appreciates the value that either have to offer. Both the patient with an arm fracture, who’s stuck with a $30,000 hospital bill and the IT manager explaining to a supervisor that the company website is down because of a malware attack wish they could go back in time and handle things differently.
Avoid Security by Half-Measures
Because of the potential devastation that a security breach can cause, security for computers is not something that consumers can just buy and forget about. It means choosing a comprehensive solution that protects against a myriad of threats and allows an individual or business to get back up and running in the event of a cyberattack.
It’s not enough to simply install an antivirus program. Many customers, for example, have found that they can get more secure Internet from Frontier with a plan that protects against the latest malware, performs regular data backups, and offers quality technical support. It’s the kind of plan that protects customers from a full range of different types of attacks.
Ransomware: Holding your Computer Hostage
Ransomware is one type of threat, whose damaging effects go well beyond lost productivity. The attack typically begins when a user clicks on a malicious link or attachment in an email, causing the ransomware to be installed.
The infected computer becomes unusable as the ransomware takes over the computer, preventing access to any other programs. All the usual escape paths like Task Manager or Alt+Tab in Windows are disabled. Any files that contain data, like documents, spreadsheets, text files and photos are encrypted and also become unusable.
One variation known as CryptoWall, even destroys system restore points and scrambles the names of infected files.
At this point, a message usually informs users of the attack and that the only way to decrypt the content is to pay a ransom through channels that are difficult to trace, like Bitcoin. Payment must be made before a specified deadline; otherwise the infected files will remain permanently encrypted.
Using Keyloggers to Steal Login Credentials
One of the best ways to defeat a login screen is to trick an authorized user into giving up their credentials. Hackers send official-looking emails to unwitting users, resulting in the installation of keystroke logger malware. When the user goes to a website requiring login credentials, all keystrokes used to enter the username and password are captured. Hackers now potentially have access to email, bank accounts and other sensitive information.
The macros that add a powerful programming environment into applications like Microsoft Excel and Word also provide an entry point for malware installation. Clicking on email attachments opens documents and executes malicious code. In recent attacks, macros have commonly been used to install more malware.
Preventing and Responding to Attacks
Users have been told for years not to open emails with attachments from an unknown source, click on suspicious links, or respond to emails asking you to login to a site; that is still sound advice today.
If in spite of taking all these measures, somehow a virus or malware program slips through, having all critical data backed up beforehand and a clear restoration procedure setup beforehand will minimize the damage.
It used to be that security was something that many users could get away with avoiding, since attacks were relatively rare and the world was not as dependent on computerized systems as it is today.
Today users no longer have such a luxury. Not only are computers connected globally through the Internet, but a growing number of machines and devices are also being connected, along with autonomous vehicles. The world is becoming more dependent on computers than ever, and skimping on security could have severe consequences.