How Much Could A Ransomware Attack Cost You?


Have you ever thought about how much your data is worth? Information is possibly the most valuable part of your business – there’s your client database, accounting software and inventory management, and of course, any intellectual property you may own.

When ransomware hits, businesses are suddenly forced to re-assess the value of their data: is it worth saving, and what’s the deeper cost of the attack?

Most ransomware attacks cost $150-$600 to get your files released, but that’s only IF the cyber-criminals honor the payment and actually give you the decryption key. Meanwhile, new client calls are still coming in and you may find yourself unable to operate with your systems down. Paying the ransom or restoring from an unaffected backup seems like a quick fix, but it doesn’t end there. There’s still the downtime involved to restore all your data – possibly days – and that’s a lot of lost productivity.

Plus, if word gets out that your data has been compromised, you may find confidence in your business plummets and your existing clients head elsewhere.

Keep your systems up to date: Many ransomware attacks take advantage of a flaw in older versions of Windows, ones that have since been patched by Microsoft. But to be protected, businesses must be up to date with their patches AND be running a supported version of Windows. Delaying patches and updates puts your business at risk – I can help you update automatically.

Consider Locking down employee computers:

Very few staff require full administrator access to your business network. The higher their level of permissions, the more damage a person can do – either accidentally with a wrong click, or by inadvertently installing malware. By locking down your employee computers, you have a better chance of containing a malware attack to non-vital systems.

Educate your workplace:

Most employees believe they’re being cyber-safe but the reality is quite different. Many malicious links and embedded malware have become hard to spot in an instant – which is all it takes to click and regret. I can work with your staff to establish procedures around checking links for authenticity before clicking, awareness around verifying the source of attachments, and the importance of anti-virus scanning. I can help get the message through!

Have a solid backup plan:

When ransomware hits, a connected backup = infected backup. Unfortunately, synced options such as Dropbox immediately clone the infected files, rendering them useless. The only safe backups will be the ones both physically and electronically disconnected, with systems designed to protect against attacks like this. I can set you up with a backup system that protects your data.

Be proactive:

The best way to avoid the financial cost of a ransomware attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Smart businesses are the ones watching these widespread ransomware attacks from the sidelines, completely unaffected and seizing opportunities while their competitors are down.

I can help protect your business against the next cyber-attack. Contact me today by filling out the form on the contact page or call me at (828) 290-8237

How To Keep Your Tech Squeaky Clean

June Residential1Our tech is something we use every day, but did you know it’s also the most disgusting? Your screen may look clean, but studies show that a mobile phone can be 18x dirtier than a public restroom! It gets worse (sorry)…that keyboard you tap at while eating your morning toast? It’s probably the biggest bacterial threat in your house, with about 20 000 times more germs than a toilet seat, more if you share it with children.

It’s not just sickness we’re up against, because as dust builds up inside gadgets, they also slow down, malfunction or overheat. Your device essentially chokes on gunk, as vents and filters are clogged by sucking in pet hair and floating debris. Here’s how to clean your essential tech items without damaging them:

1. Skip the household cleaners: Most cleaning products are too harsh for our technology and can end up causing permanent damage. You want something that can kill germs and remove everyday grime, without scratching or leaving behind a scented residue. Your best bet is Isopropyl Alcohol. You’ll find it in the first aid section of supermarkets and pharmacies, or at the hardware store. You’ll also want a microfiber cloth which you can find in department stores, hardware stores and auto parts stores.

2. Power down completely: Turn your tech off all the way, not just sleeping, and unplug from any power sources. Switch wireless keyboards, mice, etc off underneath or remove the batteries.

3. Remove any cases or covers: Undress your device as much as you can, but leave screen protectors on (unless there’s grime underneath). If your screen protector needs replacing, have a new one ready to apply.

4. Grab a microfiber cloth: Dampen the cloth with Isopropyl Alcohol and wipe screens and external surfaces gently. Older build-up may require extra effort.

5. Go deep: You can use a toothbrush or cotton tip to clean between most crevices, but some areas will need a bit more ‘oomph’ to clear. You’ve probably seen people use vacuum cleaners on their keyboard, but these are often TOO powerful and may suck keys or internal parts loose. They also generate damaging static electricity. Another option is to use a tech-specific vacuum, but these are usually underpowered.

Insider tip: Use a can of compressed air to blow the dust out. You can get these from many stores and they come with a long nozzle so you can really get in and direct the pressure. You’ll be surprised what flies out, so it’s best to do this outside! I don’t recommend using compressed air on your computer’s internal fans though, as this can make them spin too fast and damage them.

How often you clean your tech is up to you and your lifestyle. But it’s a good idea to blow out computer internal dust at least twice a year and wiping your tech down 1-2 times per week will definitely reduce germs and grime.

Ransomware Exposed: What it is and How it Works


Ransomware has become an undeniable threat to business growth, profitability and security. It’s a ruthless type of malware that locks your keyboard or computer to prevent you from accessing your data until you pay the ransom, which is usually demanded in untraceable Bitcoin. Cyber criminals are turning this type of attack into big business, raking in billions each year as many businesses have no choice but to pay up.

How does ransomware get into the network?

Surprisingly, it’s NOT those random USB drives floating around from unknown sources. That’s old school, and cyber criminals operate much more effectively now. The most common vehicle for ransomware attacks today are email and compromised websites.

One email is all it takes.

We’ve all become so used to email as the major form of business communication that getting someone to click a link is easier than ABC. Ransomware attacks come disguised as legitimate emails that can trick your employees into clicking through to an infected website or opening an infected attachment. Unfortunately, cyber criminals have gotten really, REALLY good at faking internal emails, external communications from stakeholders and seemingly genuine inquiries from customers. They’ll often conceal their ransomware in normal attachments like invoices and reports in Office docs as well as PDFs. Even TXT files can actually be an executable javascript in disguise!

Infected websites aren’t always obvious.

Let’s face it, cyber criminals will infect any web page they can get their hands on, which is why of the less reputable sites should be avoided. But it’s not just about making sure you and your employees stick to suitable sites, mainstream websites can also carry ransomware infections ready to spread to all visitors. It’s happened before – in 2016 the New York Times, BBC & MSN homepages accidentally exposed thousands of web visitors when their infected site showed malicious ads.

What happens during an attack?

As soon as ransomware is in the door, it immediately scans local and connected drives (including connected backups) and encrypts thousands of files. Within minutes, everything from Office files to multimedia is locked up tight, inaccessible to all users – even admin. Then a notification appears demanding a ransom to unlock the files and gives helpful instructions on how to pay it. At this point, many businesses are on hold until the situation can be resolved. Typical options include: restoring from safe, external backups; wiping the entire system and starting again; or paying the ransom and learning a hard lesson in data security. Ransomware may not be fun, but it certainly makes for an interesting day at the office!

I can help you with a complete data security plan, including safe backups. Contact me today by filling out the form on the contact page or call me at (828) 290-8237

Why Your Updates Are More Important Than Ever

In recent news, the ransomware WannaCry swept the world, knocking out computers in an instant. It hit businesses, government and police departments and of course the NHS hospitals in the UK. It was a mess! Affected users had all their files encrypted and couldn’t get them back unless they paid a ransom of around $300. This attack was particularly bad because it took advantage of a Windows vulnerability to spread itself from network to network. What wasn’t clear in the media though, was that home users were also exposed to the attack – but only those with a vulnerable Windows installation.

One simple security patch, issued by Microsoft months before the attack was all it took to create a no-entry zone for WannaCry. This just stresses the importance of keeping your Windows up to date at all times, no matter what you use your computer for or how often.

Updates Explained

Whenever Microsoft discovers a potential flaw, they push out a small piece of software to all Windows computers running a supported version. If set correctly, your computer will check if there’s any updates or patches and install them automatically. In new versions, this usually happens when you’re shutting down or starting up, and doesn’t impact your experience at all. Unfortunately, some users will manually disable or delay their updates, creating a risky situation.

The update may include security patches, drivers or a simple tweak to address bugs or issues with Windows. Sometimes, they even include new features or applications to improve the stability of your operating system. They’re a good thing!

Not All Versions Get Updates

Some older operating systems are no longer supported, which means unless there are extenuating circumstances, Microsoft won’t issue any new updates. Not a single one – generally, if cyber criminals discover a flaw after support ends, they’re free to exploit it. For example, Windows XP support ended in 2014, and Windows Vista just ended in April this year. The moment an operating system is retired it becomes a playground for cyber-criminals.

It’s not just Microsoft walking away from these old versions either. Third party software like the Google Chrome browser will still work, but they’ve also stopped supporting old versions with crucial updates and patches. It might seem like everything is working fine because your anti-virus isn’t pinging in alarm, but it just becomes a case of risk, upon risk, upon risk.

What to do with older Windows

As much as you’re comfortable with your older version of Windows, each time you boot up you’re exposing your system, important files and entire network. It only takes one weak entry point in the chain to allow malware into all connected devices. That could mean your photo storage, media center or even smart appliances. It’s not worth it – if you’re running Windows XP or Vista (or older), you need to update to a more modern operating system ASAP. Contact me if you want to replace your computer. I can move all your documents, pictures, music and video to a new one so you don’t lose what is important to you.

If you are wanting to replace your computer or make sure your current computer is up to date, fill out the form on the contact page and I will be happy to help.