Ransomware - It's Not Personal, but You Are a Target

Ransomware – It’s Not Personal, but You Are a Target

Ransomware. How did we get here? Early on in computer history, viruses just crashed your computer, or displayed pop-up ads. Then, more recently, malware came to be able to use your computer to launch attacks on other internet targets. But now, ransomware is the newest category of malware. The many variants of ransomware all intend to encrypt as many of your files as possible, and then ask you for ransom money to get your data back. Ransomware is aimed at individuals and at businesses; it's indiscriminate.

Ransomware can be a good deal….for the hackers. It is fairly easy for them to create. They can hide quite well, as they are difficult for authorities to find and to prosecute. But mainly, hackers can make huge amounts of money through ransomware. That's a pretty good incentive for a criminal.

Ransomware can affect anyone, but you can protect yourself. Much of your protection can be done with common sense and smart thinking. You can educate yourself to recognize the telltale signs of an email scam, and then be very vigilant about opening your email. Obviously, you will also want to invest in some good antivirus software which will prevent, search for, detect, and remove viruses and other malicious software like worms, trojans, adware, and so forth. And, if you are savvy enough, you can also set yourself or your business up with web filtering software that will restrict what websites a user can visit on his or her computer. All of these safeguards may lend some protection from the next ransomware hacker, but the best course of action for true security will be in the way of data backups.

Yes, backups. They are your best defense against any computer disaster because in the event of any data loss, you will be able to retrieve archived files of all of your computer data which you have proactively placed in some kind of separate storage device. Without a backup, you may find yourself considering paying the ransom to a hacker in a desperate attempt to try to get back to business as usual as quickly as possible. (Tip: don't pay the ransom.)

Not all backups are the same, however. If you think that your iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox accounts are safe, think again. You may have thought that these systems keep copies of your data in some safe location, which can be used as a substitution when you lose your original data. But, in fact, all of these systems can get encrypted by ransomware as easily as your local files can. If you do go with a cloud-based backup option, be sure to choose one that isn’t easily accessible from the OS.

In other words, a desktop folder that syncs with the cloud backup is a risk – the ransomware will find that folder and encrypt its contents, too.

There are two backup options. The first one is an offline, or cold, backup. In this situation, your data can be quickly copied to a physical piece of hardware, like an external hard disk, or a memory card, for example. After the backup is finished, you unplug it from the computer. When you need it, as in the event of a loss due to an attack, you can easily recover your lost data just by plugging the device back in to your computer. Be sure, however, that you are not depending upon the flash drive or external hard drive to be always connected to your computer.

An even better choice for a backup is to store your data and protect it off-site. By sending your data to a remote "vault," it is safe in the event of a disaster, system crash, or a hacker playing the ransomware game. Your data can be sent via off site using media like magnetic tape, for example, or it can be sent electronically through a cloud backup service. Savvy business owners may opt to have their backups managed and stored by third parties who specialize in the commercial protection of off-site data.

The next question is, how often will your data need to be backed up and how much of it should you store? Everything. We have the space to do that. The whole hard drive will need to be backed up to guarantee full protection.

As you can see, there are many factors that go into good business computer backups. It's not difficult, it just needs actually get done.

Don't wait for the next hacker to deliver you the ultimatum of paying ransom for your own property. Be proactive and smart. No excuses. Back it up.

The Key to Daily Progress

productivity-graphicI just finished a book called The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work.  I’ve read several books on this topic, and I really like this topic because it gets at the hear of the question “What do I need to do to keep moving forward?”  I find that in many of my goals, after some time, I realize I haven’t made much progress.

The authors of this book, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, used their research on this topic to write this excellent book.  Their research is rigorous and well documented.  I like their attention to detail.  They studied several companies over an extended period of time by having the employees send in a daily survey of that day’s happenings, and their thoughts and emotions that went along with the day’s events.

Their findings are both surprising and common sense.  Essentially, the way we make progress at work is by small daily wins.  We accomplish little goals, often several each day.  For example, in one company the authors studied, a software engineer who was working on a difficult bug finally solved it, and this small win both increased her happiness, and also increased her creative approach to other parts of her work.

One of the most remarkable findings in the book was the effect that managers and team leaders have on those under them.  The authors identify events and individuals that help employees make progress called catalysts and nourishers; and they also identify events and individuals that prevent progress and cause distress in employees; these are called toxins and inhibitors.  Team leaders and co-workers have a huge impact on the work life of other employees, which greatly impacts productivity and creativity.  Happy employees are more productive, more creative, and they stay longer.  The best team leaders in the study were able to shield their team members from harmful influences outside the team, and were also able to keep them motivated and got them back on track when things weren’t going so well.

So, how does this all apply to the Entrepreneur?  Since the authors studied employees in companies, they did not speak directly to entrepreneurs or the self-employed.  As I thought about this, I realized two things that apply well to entrepreneurs.  First, the daily progress is crucial for entrepreneurs–in fact, maybe more so than employees.  As entrepreneurs, we often have to work on something for many months before we see results; knowing that each day we have accomplished some small thing or won a small win is what keeps us going toward that goal.  One of the recommendations the authors provide is to start a journal, where you can keep track of your daily wins.  I have done so, and I like looking back over the last couple weeks to see that I have made progress.

The second thing I realized is that entrepreneurs might also have team leaders and motivators. I tried to figure out who were my motivators and team leaders.  The answer for me is my coaches and mentors.  These are the people who are able to keep me motivated, and help me out when I have difficulty, whether it’s a difficult business problem, or a personal situation.  As an entrepreneur reading this book, you will be able to see how your mentors and coaches fit the roles of the nourishers and provide the environment where those small wins can keep you motivated and moving forward.

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