Hey, y’all! You know all of those tips and suggestions that you get about internet security and safety that you’ve been ignoring about 99% of the time?
Now’s the time to take every one of them incredibly seriously 24/7/365. The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! And you can bet your ass that they’ll be scattering spam and phishing and ransomware out there like cluster bombs. Touch one of those by accident and you’ll be extremely messed up for a long, long time.
NEVER open an email of any kind unless you know who it’s from. Hopefully you’ve got a spam filter that these malware laced little threats get put as a first line of defense. If so, assume that everything in there is in there for a reason. And even if something slips through to your regular email box, be suspicious of everything.
NEVER go to a site based on clickbait. C’mon, folks! Be smarter than that! Why do you really care for two seconds about Kanye or Taylor or Beyonce at all to begin with? You all know what these things look like. With what’s going on in the world right now, one of these days real soon now it’s going to take you not to a mindless site filled with vacuous celebrity drivel but instead to something that’s going to lock your computer and erase everything on it.
It seems obvious but I know folks who have fallen for it recently – NO ONE WITH THE IRS, FBI, POLICE, CIA, M6, YOUR BOSS, OR ANYONE ELSE IS COMING TO COLLECT A BILL WHICH YOU CAN ONLY PAY OFF IN GIFT CARDS. Okay, so this isn’t necessarily part of a Russian World War III plot, but you’re more likely to get one that almost kinda sorta looks like it might be legit in the near future. IT’S A SCAM!!! Trust me, if the IRS is going to come after you, you’ll get something legal IN THE MAIL. If the police or FBI want you, they’ll just kick your door in. If it’s a creditor, they may make your life a living hell, but they won’t be paid in gift cards.
Make sure you have a good anti-virus program, make sure it’s running, and make sure that its definitions are current.
Make sure you have a full backup of your computer and make sure that it’s offline and not going to get locked and/or corrupted at the same time your computer does. Better yet, get three external hard drives (hell, you can get 10+ terabytes for about $130, and drives over 20Tb are now available) and make three backup sets. Keep one at home (NOT plugged into the computer), have one nearby but not at home (can you store it at work? can you and a friend swap holding onto each other’s?), and have one way off somewhere (do you have a family member in another state?) where it can’t be touched.
As the above proves – BE PARANOID!
My computer holds tens of thousands of photos, video, financial documents, not to mention all of the entertainment content (music, videos, publications, books, and so on) that I’ve purchased over decades. One mistake, one idle moment of curiosity instead of paranoia, and I’ll be staring at a screen with that laughing skull thing that Jeff Goldblum had on the alien mother ship in “Independence Day” while forty years of content goes away.
I would be seriously pissed for the rest of my life about that. (When our car got broken into in Montreal and my briefcase stolen back in 2004 they took a couple of memory cards full of photos that I’ll never get back again and I’m still pissed!) I choose paranoia instead.
Actually, it’s not paranoia – there really, REALLY are folks out there who are and will be trying to mess up my life like that. And yours. And everyone else’s if they can. It’s random, it’s evil, but it’s happening.
It’s war. Literally.
Be smart, be prepared.
And start yesterday.