Children are literally growing up “connected.” New social media services pop up like weeds and there is an ever-increasing number of apps and games that connect online. Additionally many schools are migrating to cloud services such as Google Drive and require work to be completed and submitted online. While this connected lifestyle has benefits, these opportunities also come with some risks. We will explore three areas of risk and what you can do to help your children stay safe.
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Ransomware is a special type of malware that is actively spreading across the internet today threatening to destroy victim’s documents and other files. Ransomware is just one of many different types of malware which has become very common because it is so profitable for criminals.
Ransomware is commonly spread by emailing victims and tricking them into opening an infected attachment or clicking on a link to the attacker’s website. Once this particular type of malware infects your computer it will start encrypting your files or your entire hard drive. You are then locked out of your entire system or cannot access your important files. The malware will inform you that the only way to unlock your system to recover your files is to pay the cyber criminal a ransom to provide you with a password to decrypt your information. Most often the ransom is paid in some form of currency such as Bitcoin.
Should You Pay the Ransom?
The problem with paying the ransom is that often people pay these criminals when they are infected which motivates criminals to infect others. Though you may not have another option to recover your files, there is no guarantee you will get your files back. During the decryption process, you may be infected with additional malware. Decrypting after the ransom is paid doesn’t confirm the ransomware is removed from your device. Ransomware can stay dormant on your device and attack again later.
The best way to recover from ransomware without paying the ransom is to recover your files from backups. This way even if your computer is infected with ransomware you have a way of recovering files after rebuilding or cleaning up your computer. Keep in mind that if your backup can be accessed from the infected system, ransomware might delete or encrypt your backup files. Therefore, it’s important to back up files to either a reputable cloud-based service or to store your backups on external drives that are not always connected to your system. Be sure to regularly test that you can recover the files you need should your system become infected with ransomware. Backups are important as they also help you recover when you accidentally delete files or your hard drive gives out.
Further Protective Measures
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You have probably heard people talk about using encryption to protect themselves and their information. In this article, we will explain what encryption is, how it protects you and how to implement it properly.
Why Use Encryption?
You might have sensitive information on your devices, such as documents, pictures and emails. If one of your devices were to be stolen, all of your sensitive information would be in someone else’s hands. Encryption protects you in these situations by helping ensure unauthorized people cannot access or modify your information.
How It Works
Encryption converts information into a non-readable format called ciphertext. Today’s encryption works by using complex math operations and a unique secret key, converting information into ciphertext. The key locks or unlocks the encrypted information. Your key could be a file stored on your computer, a password or a combination of the two.
What Can You Encrypt?
There are two types of data to encrypt:
Encrypting data at rest is vital to protect information in case your computer or mobile device is lost or stolen. Full disk encryption (FDE) is a widely used encryption technique that encrypts the entire drive in your system. This means that everything on the system is automatically encrypted for you. Today, most computers come with FDE but you might have to manually turn it on or enable it. FileVault is used on Mac computers while Windows computers can use Bitlocker or device encryption. Mobile phone encryption for the iPhone and iPads automatically enable FDE once a passcode has been set. Starting with Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), Google is requiring FDE be enabled by default provided the hardware meets certain minimum standards. Please check with your device manufacturer to determine if it supports FDE.
Information in motion is also vulnerable. If data is not encrypted it can be monitored, modified, and captured online. This is why you want to make sure that all sensitive online transactions and communications are encrypted. A common type of encryption for data in motion is HTTPS. This means that traffic between your browser and a website is encrypted. Look for https:// in the URL, a lock icon on your browser or your URL bar turning green.
Key Things to Remember
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Malware, also known as malicious code and malicious software, refers to a program that is inserted into a system, usually covertly, with the intent of compromising the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of the victim’s data, applications, or operating system or otherwise annoying or disrupting the victim. Malware has become the most significant external threat to most systems, causing widespread damage and disruption, and necessitating extensive recovery efforts within most organizations.
There are five types of malware:
Signs to Look Out For:
Ways To Avoid An Attack:
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At some point, you will most likely have some computer malfunction that causes loss of some or all of your personal files, documents or photos. Maybe you accidentally deleted the wrong file, experienced a hardware failure, or lost your laptop. Even worse, malware may have infected your computer. In times like these, backups are often the only way you can rebuild your digital life or recover critical data.
What to Back Up and When
There are two approaches on deciding what to back up:
If you are not sure what to back up then the best approach may be backing up everything. You should also consider how often you want to back up. Apple’s Time Machine or Microsoft Backup and Restore allow you to create an automatic “set it and forget it” backup schedule. Other solutions can allow continuous protection in which new or altered files are immediately backed up as soon as there closed.
How to Back Up
You can store your files in two ways:
Backing up to physical media keeps your files on a physical storage device, such as DVD’s, USB devices or an external hard drive. Whichever media you choose, never back up your files to the device that holds your original files. It’s also smart to label your physical media with info about the backup and the date it was created.
Some disadvantages to storing on physical media is the possibility of disaster or theft. Physical media can be lost, stolen or damaged just as easily as the original files.
Cloud-based storage works by installing a program (client) that automatically backs up your files for you. You can pay for cloud storage providers to store your backups. The price is normally determined by the size of the backup.
The advantage of this solution is in the event of a disaster or theft, your files will be virtually stored off-site. Additionally, you can access these files from anywhere. The disadvantages of cloud-based backups are that recovery can be slower especially if you have a large amount of data and you will also need to ensure that the cloud service provider can store this data securely to prevent unauthorized access.
After backing up your data, it’s always a good to be certain that you can recover it. Check every month that your backups are working by recovering a file and validating the contents. Additionally, be sure to make a full system backup before a major upgrade such as moving to a new computer or mobile device or before a major repair.
Key Points Summary
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While hackers pose a serious problem, there’s also the risk of losing, forgetting or having your devices stolen. Keep your tablets safe by following these tips:
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One of today’s most effective cyber-attack methods is to take advantage of the human tendency to trust.
Social engineering, a form of psychological manipulation where an attacker cons users into divulging information or doing something they want the user to do, can occur through phone calls, email, text messaging, social media and online chats.
Indicators of social engineering attacks include:
To avoid social engineering attacks, never share your passwords and don’t share too much personal information on social media, which can give attackers information to mislead you. If someone asks for something personal, verify their contact information first.
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A password unlocks a kingdom of information — yet people often make themselves vulnerable to cyber attack by using weak passwords.
To create better passwords, use these password safety tips:
If you believe your password has been compromised, change your password right away. If you need help, contact EarthLink Support.
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These days, most of us can’t live without our cell phone. However, it can be dangerous to be attached to a device without knowing how it can be hacked. Some security concerns include dangerous app downloads and changes to default settings.
iPhones: WhileApple is known for tight security measures and therefore safer security measures on its cell phones, some users may be tempted to jailbreak their iPhones to get around restrictions. Jailbreaking is not recommended because it invalidates iPhone’s warranty, renders Apple’s security measures useless, can cause crashing and instability, and may even “brick” or freeze the phone.
Androids: To offer more freedom, Google allows users to download cell phone apps from outside the Play Store. But this opens users to risk, as attackers can try to distribute malicious apps.
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We’re always concerned when our customers can’t get the most out of the internet. As a result of our continuous monitoring, and information that we’ve received from those customers who have reached out to us, we have been able to quickly isolate and address the most common issues that affect performance and connectivity. We believe that there are no widespread issues on our end at this time but we want to provide some troubleshooting steps that we think may be helpful for our customers who frequently experience connectivity issues.
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