Want to lose all that digital weight? All those files you’ve been accumulating for years? Don’t read this article and go about your business.
Have you been keeping up with what’s been happening in Atlanta? Over the past several days, the city of Atlanta has been the victim of a ransomware situation that has brought the city to its knees. Cybercriminals have encrypted major city computer systems and are demanding $51,000 in Bitcoin to decrypt the systems. The city of Atlanta is essentially being held hostage and is resorting to doing what services it can with pen and paper.
While critical systems such as fire, police, rescue, 911, airport, and water services have continued without interruption, other services such as City Planning, City Zoning, Municipal Court, and Watershed management are learning how to operate as if it were the 1950’s, without the benefit of file cabinets and carbon forms in triplicate.
The city is working with The Secret Service, the FBI, Homeland Security, and Georgia Tech to try and unencrypt the file systems and of course catch the culprits responsible. Last year a number of smaller cities were hit with ransomware as well across the U.S. If you remember last May, over 100 countries were hit with a ransomware cyber-attack that his countries from China in the east to Russia in the north, and hit the National Health Service of Great Britain especially hard.
What does this have to do with you, the local Eye Care Professional of choice? Easy. You could very well be the next target. Having worked with ECP’s across the country large and small, I know of only a handful of businesses who take cybersecurity seriously. Most ECP’s I’ve met don’t bother with anti-virus programs, let alone make sure their systems are regularly updated. Almost none put in firewalls or have any meaningful preventative or emergency contingency plans for such an attack.
While there is no 100% foolproof system for not getting hit, other than turning off your computers altogether, there are a few things you can do to help save your fanny should the brown stuff hit the whirling fans.
Ensure you have regular backups. You can back up online and I would strongly suggest you invest in some sort of cloud back up.. You should also have a physical offline backup (portable hard drive) you make at least once a week. You might even trade out those hard drives so you are using two different drives.
Update security patches. There is a reason every operating system and most every app continually updates their systems. Not only do they provide new feature from time to time, but more often than not, those updates are patches for newly discovered security holes.
Install an antivirus on every device. Antivirus programs are cheap (under $50 per machine per year for a decent program). Microsoft provides Windows Defender for free…so now there is no excuse.
Stay away from non-business websites. Don’t let your staff search Hot Chicks With Eyeglasses dot com or any other non-business website on business computers. Everyone has a smartphone these days and they can surf whatever funny or naughty websites they want on their dime and their time.
Do not download files or open attachments from untrusted sources. Nigel from a new eyewear company in Nigeria wants to sell you fashion frames for pennies on the dollar. Just open this Excel spreadsheet for details….or don’t and save everyone a lot of headaches.
Do not click on links from people you do not trust. Nigel has a website for you to visit that will double your patience in 30 days. Yes, I typed patience instead of patients. Spelling and grammar are good first clues of non-English speaking spammers. Make a rule not to click on anything you don’t know the source of without getting clarification first.
Most important, learn from Atlanta. Had they spent some money securing their systems better chances are they wouldn’t be having this problem and you wouldn’t be reading this article.