Helpful Hints


What to Do If Your Data Is Included in a Leak?

Data breaches are now daily occurrences and can happen to any business. The April 2021 leak of 533 million Facebook records was one of the largest known data leaks, but even if you weren’t affected by that one, you may still be at risk.

There is no easy way to know if your information has been leaked. When a business is hacked, it typically sends a notification letting you know, but this isn’t guaranteed. And you can’t go in and check the Dark Web. It is difficult to find and dangerous to access, and that is why the bad guys like it.

It’s a good idea to navigate to https://haveibeenpwned.com to see if your email address or phone number is on any data breach files. This isn’t conclusive, but it can help.

Even, if you’re not sure if you’ve been a victim of a data leak, you’ll want to take action.

There are several smart strategies to follow immediately.

#1 Limit your social sharing

It is simple to share on social media – that is part of the fun. You share the pictures of your wedding day or anniversary, or your new house with its address. You’re filling in family and friends in your life, right?

Well, if you are using any of that information to create access credentials, you are sharing too much. Someone with a beloved cat called “Petunia” in every photo who uses the feline’s name as a password gives hackers an edge.

You might think you are sharing harmless information, but those birthday party photos posted on the big day are a clue to your identity that hackers can exploit.

#2 Use Unique Passwords

Would you believe people still use “12345678” and “password” as their passwords? If you are one of them, stop now. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again and again: use unique passwords for every one of your accounts. Yes, it is more to remember, but it helps cut the risk of a data breach at one site snowballing to disastrous consequences for you.

You might use a password keeper such as 1Password or LastPass to manage your many passwords. This is more secure than the password manager offered by your Web browser, although those are better than revising passwords or trying (hopelessly) to memorize them.

#3 Add Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) makes it more challenging for the bad actor. Now, they will need to obtain access not only to log in credentials but also to your personal device. However, since phone numbers are often included in a data leak, this isn’t the best solution. If the hacker has your name, address, and birthdate from the Dark Web, they can take over your phone number, too. They call the company and say, “I lost my phone. Can I get another SIM card.” Then, they are the ones to get those verification codes via message, not you.

Better still, use a 2FA app to confirm your identity. Authy or LastPass are good authenticator apps. After you attempt to log in, you will need to enter a time-sensitive code generated by the app to complete access.

#4 Stop Signing into Other Sites Using Social

Sure, it is convenient to use your Facebook or other social media account to sign in to connected applications, because you have fewer passwords to remember. Some of your data is automatically transferred, so signup is streamlined, too. Yet you are increasing the risk of account compromise.

The hacker may access the third-party application and use that as a stepping stone to get into your social account. That’s where the trove of data is.

#5 Develop an Alternate Ego

It all sounds super spy, but you might have one email account you open to be a burner account for social media. You could also use a fake birth date, a fake alma mater, and other alternative facts to fill out the social profile.

Don’t fabricate personal details for an employer, or a financial or educational institution. But you might use a fake identity for entertainment, gaming, and social sites that bad guys may mine for personal data.


Cryptolocker Virus

Well, this bad boy is just that bad, BAD, BAD!  It has been out since the fall of 2013 and already has several variants.  So, what does this mean?  It means it’s hard to stop.  Can I protect against it?  Yes!  Let me explain it:

What this virus does is it encrypts all of the files on your computer, including any external devices such as USB stick or USB drive, your multimedia NAS, your other computer you have shared.  It pretty much tries to get it all.  Then, when it is all finished encrypting your files the software asks you to pay $300 for the magic key to unlock your files.  Oh, and you only have a finite amount of time to do that before they delete the key.  Ransomware is what they call that.  And no, you cannot get your file back any other way.

The anti virus companies can detect it and stop it.  Please keep your anti virus up to date.  But, as this virus is still evolving, they are not perfect.

So, what can you do to protect yourself even more?  Several things.  First, the original variant came in through email attachments.  So, be cautious of the emails you open, especially the attachments.

The next iteration just uses a link embedded in the email message.  So don’t click on any links you don’t really need to click on.

Also, it is now being spread though websites like those file sharing websites.  Are you looking for a free copy of MS Office, or Adobe Photoshop?  Not only is it illegal, but you may end up with Cryptolocker.

Ok, more prevention tips.  Backup your files.  I stress this to everyone I ever talk to about computers.  If you just have one device, please keep it disconnected until you need to back things up.  If it is connected, I certainly hope you are using a backup solution that has file versioning.  Online backups are great, make sure the versioning is turned on with at least 3-10 versions.  Why is this so important?  If you backup your Cryptolocked file over the one on the backup system then what do you have?  An encrypted version of the file you cannot do anything with.  With versioning, if you do happen to backup your encrypted Cryptolocked files, then at least you can get back the previous version that actually works.

So, while I said this bad boy was bad, it is preventable or at least fightable.  Please use some common sense on the internet, and checking emails.  Keep your anti virus software up to date ($40 is cheap insurance).  And backup your computer regularly with a system that does versioning.


Is Your Data Backed Up? Why Not?

This article is more for the home or SOHO user.  Or even the small business with no email or databases in house.  First, some insight to this article.  EVERYONE NEEDS A BACKUP PLAN!! We cannot stress this enough.   It doesn’t matter if it is JUST your home computer as there are probably irreplacable pictures on your pc that if lost will not make for a happy person.  It’s not a question of will you lose your data – it’s when!

Some Quick Facts
The average failure rate of disk and tape drives is 100% – ALL DRIVES WILL EVENTUALLY FAIL.

Only 34% of companies test their tape backups, and of those who do, 77% have found failures.

60% of companies that lose their data will go out of business within 6 months of the disaster.

Over 1/2 of critical corporate data resides on unprotected PC desktops and laptops.

Key causes for data loss are:
78% Hardware or system malfunction
11% Human error
7% Software corruption or program malfunction
2% Computer viruses
1% Natural disasters
1% Other

Only 25% of users frequently back up their files, yet 85% of those same users say they are very concerned about losing important digital data.

More than 22% said backing up their PCs was on their to-do list, but they seldom do it.

1 in 25 notebooks are stolen, broken or destroyed each year.

Today’s hard drives store 500 times the data stored on the drives of a decade ago. This increased capacity amplifies the impact of data loss, making mechanical precision more critical.

You have a 30% chance of having a corrupted file within a one-year time frame.
*Source: VaultLogix

There you have it!  GET A BACKUP SOLUTION NOW! Ok, you say you backup to a USB drive or stick.  That’s a good start.  What if your house catches fire, or a flood, or tornado, etc?  Are you grabbing your backups on the way out the door?  Probably not the first thing on your mind.  Online backups solve this problem by putting your data outside of your home/business automatically with no user intervention.   You select the files or folders or the whole computer and it will backup at your schedule.   They don’t backup everything every time.  Most software these days do “in-file delta” and incremental backups.  What does this mean? When you make changes to files the software compares what you already have backed up and the changes and only backs up the changes.  Which makes the backup run quicker.  The incremental backup only changes files that have changed since the last backup.  Again, making your backups more efficient.

The other feature that most companies have is “versioning”.  Versioning is the ability to store x number of changes to the backup.  So, why is this important?

How about an example:  You create a file called Z.txt.  It gets backed up on Jan 3rd.  You make some changes to Z.txt on Jan 15th.  It gets backed up that nite.  On Feb 1 you make a few more changes to Z.txt.  It gets backed up that nite.  Now technically you have 3 different versions of the file Z.txt backed up.  On Feb 8 you realize you had the file all wrong and the one you created on Jan 3rd is actually the one you want.  Well, it is gone from your computer because you have been making changes to it.  All is not lost.  You can actually go back to that first “version” of the file because your software allows up to 5 versions to be saved.  Lucky for you!

“Ok, oK, I’ve got it.  I need a backup, but they are expensive!”  Not for basic file backup they aren’t.  There are several companies that do unlimited backup space for around $60 a year.  It doesn’t matter which one you use.  Here are a couple recommendations but htere are more:
Carbonite.com, Backblaze.com, Mozy.com.  All of these work with Windows and Mac.  If you want a Linux solution try Jungledisk.com.  JungleDisk.com is not unlimited but, at .15 per Gig, it is pretty cheap.

Now, a word about your external drives.  Backblaze is the only one that will backup your external drive without using tricks that are beyond most home users. So if you have external drives you need backed up, you only have one choice.

How about my small business server?  Unfortunately you will need to spend a little more money on this, but it is still cheap in comparison to losing your data.  The above programs will not backup your SQL databases, or your Exchange email server accounts.  But for less than $300 a year you should be able to get everything backed up safely.  We use a product for our clients from MidwestBackup.net.  Price is determined by how much data you store but it is still cheaper than a years worth of tape backups done correctly that, as stated above, have a 77% chance of not working.

So, go get started on backing up your data now!  It’s cheap, and you have a lot to lose!