Backing up your data is probably one of the most important things you can do if you own a computer. Yet so many people never back up their data, and the ones who do may not do it consistently. Sometimes, we just have too much on our plates to concern ourselves with another routine, sometimes we’re just lazy, but other times, we just don’t know where to start. Sometimes it takes a major loss of valuable data to kick a person into the mindset that data backups may even be necessary. In fact, some people will lose everything and still not take future precautions. Even worse is when some people fall into the mindset of “It couldn’t happen to me!” Whatever the reason is, it’s important to know that there are backup solutions meant to fit in with busy schedules, many of which require no effort on your part.
The Manual Backup:
This method of backup is usually the easiest to do, but also requires the most discipline to do regularly, thus making it (potentially) the least reliable. Simply dragging and dropping (or copying and pasting) files and folders from a Mac or PC to a second location can do the trick. Backup locations can vary by reliability and cost, from a simple flash drive to a cloud storage subscription, but the end result is the same: if your computer dies on you, the information will be safe elsewhere, as long as the backup is recent. This method has plenty of pitfalls in exchange for its simplicity – questions such as “What exactly are you backing up?”, “How often?” and “To where?” can certainly affect how effective this solution may be. Another question one might ask themselves when exploring data backup options is “Will I be diligent enough to routinely back-up my data?” It’s up to the user to decide whether they have the discipline to keep up with this method of data backup. If you have very specific files that you want to keep safe and you have the time to devote to creating a manual backup, this method may be the right one for you.
There are many programs out there that can back up a computer either on demand, constantly, or on a set schedule. Some of them, such as Apple’s Time Machine or Microsoft’s File History, are even built right in to your computer. Features aside, the requirements of such programs are typically the same across both Mac and PC. Typically, they involve nothing beyond a simple, high capacity storage device, such as an external hard drive. An automatic backup is often the quickest method available once its initial setup is complete, as it can run without any input on your part and can move even large sums of data more quickly and efficiently than you can manually. Automatic local backups run at a particular time of choosing be it daily, weekly, or even monthly. Depending on how much data is being backed up, this can take a relatively short amount of time. The downside of such convenience, as with many things that are automated, is the sense of complacency people tend to get into. External hard drives can fail just like the ones inside your computer. Unless you check in on your backup every so often, you may find that your safety net was cut months ago without you even realizing it. Even with automatic backups at your disposal, you will still want to establish at least a semi-frequent check up to make sure your important data is still safe. If you are looking for an easy, low effort solution for your data backups and can remember to frequently check on your backup storage system, the automatic local backup might be the solution you need to keep your data safe.
A local backup can prepare you for almost any situation – from a virus to a corrupted operating system, and even in the event of complete hardware failure. However, what happens if a real-world disaster occurs? In the event of a fire, a flood, or some other serious catastrophe, the loss of years of irreplaceable information can be just as bad as the loss of physical property. For these situations, one of the only truly viable options is a cloud backup. A lot of people find the cloud very confusing, but it’s actually quite simple. It’s simply a bunch of computers owned by a company that you are renting some space on. Think of it like any physical storage rental; if you have some prized possessions that you want to keep safe, or you simply do not have enough room to store everything, you can rent storage from a company to hold them for you. The advantages are obviously that, should anything bad happen locally, your data will be safe elsewhere. Also, since the cloud is connected to the Internet, you can access the information stored there from anywhere, so long as you have your username and password handy. Additionally, like most automatic local backups, cloud storage backups can occur on a regular schedule without any upkeep or direct involvement from the user. On the down-side, for any reasonable amount of storage, most services require you to pay a monthly subscription fee, and should you stop paying, you may lose access to your information. Backups made to the cloud also can’t be as complete as a good local backup. If one of the most important things to you regarding your data is keeping your settings, apps, and software safe in addition to traditional files such as pictures, documents, and emails, this may not be the option for you, or at least, should not be the only option you use. Another thing to consider is that these backups also tend to take longer since the speed at which you can back up your data is ultimately limited by the speed of your Internet connection. Finally, while the issue of complacency and false security for the previous method are definitely still a potential concern, cloud services, since they’re managed by a professional company that you are paying a subscription to, will typically notify you much more persistently if something is amiss. Thus, only the most negligent disregard of their warnings will leave you at risk. At the end of the day, the cloud option’s greatest strength is the fact that it’s decentralized, and thus not in any one place. If you have multiple devices that you need to access important files from anywhere, or if you live in a place that is prone to leaks, storms, fires, or any other natural disasters, the cloud backup option would be advisable. If you live in a place where your internet connection may not be the best, or you are on a budget and cannot fully commit to a subscription fee, then you may want to look at a local backup solution as your data backup choice.
Nobody likes to think that it could happen to them, but the reality is that the loss of data could happen to anybody. Most of the time, it’s not due to the user’s negligence, but rather an accident or sudden failure of hardware. The future is digital; most of our most important files from family pictures and professional resumes to email correspondence with clients can be lost if not properly copied over. Gone are the days where a kid can use the age-old excuse of “My dog ate my homework!” Nowadays, it’s more like “A virus killed my computer!”.
It is important to any user of a computer, Mac or PC, to treat their data as something precious. You only need to lose it all once. It is up to the user to take preventative measures to ensure that their life doesn’t come to a halt in case of computer failure. Take a look at your data and your schedule to figure out what type of backups are right for you!
If you want to protect your data and want to know which solution may be the best for you, give us a call at RGB Computer Solutions at 781-749-1130 to see how we can help you keep your precious files safe!
One of the situations we see far too often these days is when a user runs out of storage for their data. With Macs and PCs, storage is definitely on a higher scale from many other devices out there, but many of the problems are the same – too many programs or too much data can quickly fill any storage you may have on your computer. Just as many underestimate how much data they can accumulate in a couple years with a smartphone, many underestimate how much can be accumulated over the life of their computer, which in some cases can go beyond a decade. Although most will never make it to that ten year mark, most systems are kept for several years anyway, and thus the storage needs can far exceed even the most extreme cases elsewhere. You can avoid this problem by choosing the right amount of storage for your digital needs.
The most common group of users to encounter this barrier are definitely the Mac users out there. Especially with how tightly focused many art schools, musicians, and graphics design careers are on the Mac ecosystem, their users, on average, store a great deal of their music, photos, and other media on their Macs – whether for work or personal use.
The problem is exacerbated further by the most common Mac configurations, namely the MacBook line, having relatively small hard drive capacities. The reason for this is that the types of storage many Macs and premium PCs use is much faster and delivers a much more snappy experience, at the cost of being more expensive than their more standard counterparts for a given amount of space. The base model MacBooks frequently have only 128 GB of storage available, and that’s what most people go with without a second thought, as it is the most inexpensive option. While this may sound like a lot, especially when compared to the smartphones we carry with us everyday, it’s important to consider the fact that, on average, many of these Macs are not only far more expensive than their smartphone counterparts, but their users also tend to keep them far longer, as previously mentioned. That’s to say nothing of the fact that many Mac users store complete backups of their entire iPhone’s content on their Macs, in addition to everything else. When you take that factor in by itself, you can see why this amount of space may prove to be insufficient rather quickly.
With PCs, the lines aren’t so clear-cut. With how many different manufacturers there are out there, each producing multiple lineups of different types of Windows-based devices, the narrative tends to break down a little. Many desktop computers and laptops, especially in the lower and middle-range, tend to come with a whole 1 Terabyte of storage as standard. This is far more than most people really need, but is the most cost effective option for a lot of manufacturers. Paradoxically, as you get into price ranges closer to the high-end, and more in line with what you might pay for a Mac, the storage starts to decrease in many models, especially the thin-and-light laptops people are so fond of these days. As mentioned in the case of the MacBooks, this more expensive form of storage starts to become much more common in the higher-end systems available. These types of drives, called Solid State Drives, are much faster and more durable than their classic Disk Drive predecessors – even many older systems can see a huge boost in speed and responsiveness with this type of drive under the hood. However, the price tradeoff is again apparant – every step up in storage will typically run users a good deal of money, thus discouraging people to go any higher than the most inexpensive option.
In our experiences over the years, we tend to see a few situations that stand out most commonly, with the bulk of people falling into three distinct scenarios…
One of the most common cases is, of course, the people who mainly use their computer for web browsing and email. For those that do most of their work online, keeping only minimal collections of documents, pictures, or other files on the computer itself, the storage needs are pretty minimal. With the proliferation of video streaming services such as Youtube, Netflix, and Hulu – or just as commonly, music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, and Google Play Music, many who do most of their work online can get most of their entertainment online as well. Users who fit this bill can expect to need very little storage on their systems, and often even the smallest options will be more than sufficient. An entire class of computer has been built around this scenario, the most well known of which being Google’s Chromebooks – a type of computer that is most often cheap, fast, and lightweight, with minimal storage options that instead rely on the cloud and internet services such as Google Docs to do most of the heavy lifting.
This next case usually encompasses those who store large collections of data on their computers. Be it pictures or videos, music or documents, they are often rather similar to those in the above scenario in terms of how they use their computers from day to day. However, there will often be times in which they might find themselves storing or editing pictures from their cameras or smartphones, or perhaps even dabbling in video editing. Those of us who fit this category will want to invest in the larger storage options available, depending on the computer in question. While the average photo only takes up a tiny fraction of the space on your system, over the course of years (or even decades!) it can be very easy to build up a collection of tens or even hundreds of thousands of photos or other important files. With most systems coming with a 1 Terabyte drive, you’re guaranteed to get a good deal of mileage for your needs. Although, depending on how much you have, you may need even more space over time. Of course, if you’re looking at a Mac or higher-end PC with more limited capacity drives, you should definitely opt for some of the larger options, despite the extra cost, since more storage can easily make the difference in the computer’s viability for the future.
For some people, their computer essentially IS their job, for all intents and purposes – their livelihood and all their work is done through it, and all their files and documentation are exclusively stored there. This is especially true for those in a career in (or going to school for) design or creative fields such as photography, cinema, 3D modelling, or manufacturing. The software for this type of work is usually quite expansive on its own, and many of the files users will work with daily will be quite large. Between RAW photos and high-resolution video, or complex 3D models and textures, even shorter projects can take up a great deal of space. This doesn’t just apply to the professionals in these fields either; very often, even hobbyists and amateurs will encounter problems with not having enough space for their passion. Even when it comes to more casual usage, modern video games can take up a lot of space, too – some modern titles encompass more than 50 Gigabytes a piece. If any of this sounds like you, you’re best advised to go with the largest options available to you. You may even want to consider external forms of storage such as the Cloud or external hard drives. For a relatively modest fee, you can expand the space available to you dramatically.
Beyond just providing more storage, both the Cloud and external hard drives can provide an exceptionally important quality – backup. Especially for the latter cases, having a backup of your data is paramount. Computers can break, hard drives can die, and certain malware can even take your files hostage and hold them for ransom. Even if it has never happened to you before, it can happen to anyone – and in the case of the first two problems, it will happen eventually.
Whatever your situation may be, choosing the right amount of storage for your computer can be more significant than any other detail in a new purchase. It’s important to remember that the computer is a tool, and it’s what that tool is used to do and create that is the most important. Of course, if you’r ever unsure of your needs or are simply looking for some advice, feel free to talk to us at RGB Computer Solutions.
We’ve spoken on the subject of data backups and how important they are in the past, but we’ve never really explored the different options available in some of the categories of backup methods.
In recent years especially, one of those backup methods has gone from trendy idea to industry standard, and many users find that, for better or for worse, their data is always kept safe in the cloud.
Now, as mentioned before, there are different options available for cloud storage intended for different purposes and users. In fact, with how trendy this type of service has become, every other tech company under the sun wants to get in on the business. At this point, there are probably more clouds on the internet than clouds in the sky!
We’ll be going over some of the most prevalent and popular platforms, as well as the more specialized file hosters, especially those for photos.
Thanks to their significant marketing power, and their advantages when it comes to tying into their other products and services, the most widely used cloud storage providers tend to be, unsuprisingly, the largest players in the tech community already. However, despite the unlevel playing field, alot of smaller services have cropped up over time and, through either unique features, value, or persistence, have managed to grow considerably since their creations.
First off, we have Dropbox. Dropbox is one of the more independent ones here, and was one of the first cloud services to really make it big in the industry. They give users 2 GB of storage for free, and basic plans start at $10 per month for 1 Terabyte of storage. This amount of space is typically more than enough for the average user, and they offer more advanced features like file sharing with special links, recovery of deleted files, viewing of older versions of modified documents, among others. They have even higher plans for business and enterprise customers with more storage and features available.
Next, there’s Google Drive. To be frank, if you’re on the internet frequently, you probably use at least one Google service or another. Between Gmail, Youtube, Google Chrome, Google Earth, Google Search and so many others, it’s kind of hard to avoid at least part of their reach. Also, most of the smartphones in the world run Google’s Android OS. To tie a lot of it together, google provides Google Drive users with 15 GB of free space, which is shared between Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Docs (Google’s free online office productivity suite) as well. Plans start at $2 a month for 100 GB of storage and $10 a month for 1 TB of storage. Storage options extend to a whopping 30 TB if desired, and several amounts in between.
If you own any iDevices or Mac computers from Apple’s venerable lines, there’s a good chance you have run into or had experience with Apple’s own cloud storage, aptly named “iCloud”. iCloud is very well integrated into Apple’s devices, and allows you to store complete backups of said devices online, which can then be accessed from other apps or even used to migrate seamlessly to a newer device if, for example, you were to upgrade to the next iPhone. Larger storage options are available, and to a degree, necessary if you wish to make use of this function, however. Apple starts users off with 5 GB of free storage, and for only $0.99 a month, will give you 50 GB of storage. Plenty for the average iPhone or iPad user. Plans also come in 200 GB and 1 TB flavors for those wishing to back up their Macs or multiple iOS devices for $2.99 and $9.99, respectively.
On the subject of large companies and their cloud storage, Windows 8 and Windows 10 users have probably noticed over the past couple of years an increasing involvement in Microsoft’s productivity tools and, indeed, Windows itself’s affairs by Onedrive, Microsoft’s latest evolution of its cloud service. Fueled by its specialties in productivity, especially in educational and business fields, Microsoft has always understood the importance of the data their software is used to create, and has had cloud service for years now. Onedrive, however, takes things a step further beyond its predecessors such as skydrive et cetera, and, as mentioned before, has become a major component in the Office suite. Users start off with 5 GB of storage for free, with a 50 GB plan for $2 a month, and a 1 TB plan for $6.99 a month which includes Skype minutes and a subscription to Office 365, providing constant access to the latest version of Microsoft Office and all of its components, with updates and upgrades to newer versions as long as the subscription is active. There is also a premium plan for $9.99 a month that includes 1 TB in addition to Microsoft Office per person for up to 5 users, and further business options are available.
Whereas most of our previous entries have been focused on productivity specifically, with the one exception potentially being iCloud, it’s definitely worth mentioning that there are some Cloud service companies that take a more broad and automatic approach. Whereas services like Dropbox, Onedrive, and Google Drive require you to be manually placing files into their folders in order for them to be backed up and synchronized, a service like Carbonite automatically backs up the folders and files that you select without any further intervention required. Like some of the others on this list, it also provides a sort of “backup of previous backups”, in which you can see older versions of files and folders from previous backups, just in case you delete something you didn’t want to, or if you make a change that you want to revert. Carbonite’s encryption is also rock-solid, so any files saved through their service are very secure, which can be very important for business owners. However, as mentioned before, Carbonite is not as focused as other Cloud services, and lacks a lot of the file sharing and collaboration features that others on this list provide. However, in the interest of security alone, Carbonite is one of the best. Carbonite bills yearly instead of monthly. For unlimited storage for one user, it charges $59.99 per year, with a $99.99 option for backing up external drives and devices, should you require more than one storage device backed up.
As many people would agree, the most important files for most are photos. Especially with the proliferation of smartphones and relatively low-cost cameras, it seems that everyone has their own digital photo album, filled with memories they would like to protect. As a result, a good number of file hosting services similar to the previously mentioned cloud storage drives have begun cropping up. These, however, are specialized almost entirely in picture and video media. Storage amounts and features vary. While a host like Yahoo’s Flickr offers up to 1 TB of space for free and focuses on the professional and amateur photography communities, that’s what they’re most focused in. On the other hand. services like Photobucket, Shutterfly, and Snapfish have focuses ranging anywhere from custom designs to photo printing and creative use. In the sense of creative use, these companies may offer anything from custom calendars to coffee mugs and greeting cards, from canvas tote bags to mouse pads, and that’s only to name some of the possibilities that can be worked with the photos of your choosing. Of course, while the safekeeping of their users’ photos is still paramount, providing the ability to express some creativity while doing so is a convenient option for many looking to back up.
The advent of cloud storage and file hosting services has really changed the ways in which we can keep our files with us, and keep our files safe. However, cloud storage is not always the best option for long-term backups, and, like any backup method for important files, should never be counted on alone. Subscription costs can really stack up over the course of the year, and while most services provide the capability to retrieve deleted files within a time period, if you end up needing anything that you deleted to free up space later down the line, recovery will be impossible.
Too often I encounter people who have lost important files or pictures that they will never be able to replace, and even more often I hear the reasoning that there’s “never been a need for a backup”, or that “nothing’s ever gone wrong in the past”. Remember, folks: it only needs to happen once, and that once is too many. Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely that you won’t be afflicted with some form of data loss in your life; from dead hard drives and scratched disks, to dropped laptops or smashed phones, technology can be a delicate thing, so why play that game of Russian Roulette? Backing up your data is something that you will never regret until you don’t do it.
For decades now, computer systems the world over have been using one form of hard drive most extensively: the Hard Disk Drive. This form of data storage relies on a magnetic disk which is spun rapidly while it has data written to it by a mechanical disk head. As time has worn on, these hard drives have grown in capacity almost exponentially, while prices have come down at a nearly constant rate.
However, in recent years, a newer type of hard drive has begun to see prevalent use among the higher-end business and performance PC markets: the Solid State Drive. This newer variety of drives is referred to as “Solid State” because of the fact that it relies on silicon memory cells rather than a mechanical disk assembly, and thus has no moving parts. This technology is akin to much more common forms of portable storage, such as SD and Compact Flash cards used in cameras and phones, as well as USB Flash Drives.
Despite how radically different they are, the two types of drives are built to achieve the same purpose, and that is the long term storage of programs, documents, files, and the operating system itself. However, by virtue of their differing design philosophies, Solid State Drives tend to perform differently from Hard Disk Drives, and have a number of advantages and disadvantages when compared to their older peers.
A computer is only as fast as its slowest part. With processors that are tens or even hundreds of times more capable of handling vast and complicated tasks than those of years and decades past, and RAM that is not only faster but more plentiful than ever before, it really comes down to how quickly one can put work on the table. When most people think of “speed” on their computers, they think most often of how long it takes for the computer to start, how long after that before the programs of their choosing will open, how quickly said programs respond, and how long it takes to save or move around their work once it is completed.
The average computer running Windows 7 with a mechanical Hard Disk Drive can take upwards of a couple minutes to start and become usable, depending largely on how many programs are starting with the computer. Larger programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, Sony Vegas, or even Microsoft Office can take fairly long as well, depending on their size. With a Solid State Drive, starting Windows usually takes seconds where it would have taken minutes, and most programs open nearly instantaneously. Besides this, saving large files and projects, as well as transferring such documents to other folders, and even installing programs or Windows updates will take far less time.
Size and Weight
Less of a concern for desktop and workstation users, Solid State Drives are frequently installed in Ultrabooks and other highly portable devices where size and weight are a concern. Needless to say, a few silicon wafers is bound to weigh a lot less than a metal disk and motor assembly. Besides this, many Solid State Drives bound for Ultrabooks and tablets are also manufactured smaller and thinner than other Solid State Drives or conventional laptop hard drives, allowing for more room for other components and a thinner design. A very well known example of successful implementation of this strategy is in Apple’s MacBook Air line of laptops.
Once again, although not a concern with desktops or workstations, Solid State Drives tend to use less power than their counterparts, thanks to the fact that they don’t have to spin a disk at several thousand rotations per minute to operate. This can result in a small bonus in battery life in laptops, and once again owing to their smaller size requirements in Ultrabooks, potentially allow for larger batteries to be incorporated in the design. The new ultrathin, ultralight models of laptops launching lately, including the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 and the MacBook (2015) are extreme examples of this, where nearly the entire chassis is filled with the battery and only a small area is left for the Motherboard and the Solid State Drive.
Heat is a computer’s worst enemy, yet ironically it is something it generates even from running idle. Excessive heat increases wear and tear on a computer’s internal components, and in extreme circumstances, can shorten its lifespan or cause serious damage. Keeping computer systems cool is such a constant concern for product designers and computer engineers, that an entire industry has been built around computer cooling alone. Although it’s not a tremendous amount, Hard Disk Drives tend to generate a reasonable amount of heat, whereas Solid State Drives are relatively cool running.
One of the biggest failure points of mechanical Hard Disk Drives is their lack of shock resistance. A drop, an impact, or even a jostle can cause part of the drive to lose alignment or stop functioning, and worst case scenario, all the data on it becomes irretrievable. Solid State Drives, thanks to the fact that they possess no moving parts, have a good deal of shock resistance and can usually survive a fall without losing data.
Solid State Drives, thanks to the fact they store data differently from Hard Disk Drives, never become fragmented. Thus, they do not tend to experience the same slow down over time as most drives do, and do not need to spend long hours defragmenting themselves to run efficiently again. Most current operating systems and programs dedicated to this purpose are smart enough to know not to try to defragment a Solid State Drive, but for those that are not, the user must know that it is not only a waste of time, but may also corrupt some information on the drive.
Costto Storage Ratio
The fact of the matter is, with Solid State Drives as relatively new as they are, they are still fairly expensive. Dollar per Gigabyte, mechanical Hard Disk Drives are still far more cost effective and thus a far better choice if one has a lot of information to store. Most computers come with a 500 GB Hard Disk Drive standard, and by itself the drive usually costs less than a hundred dollars. For an equivalently sized Solid State Drive, the price can easily be more than triple the cost.
The number of times a memory cell in a Solid State Drive can write a piece of information is, unfortunately, finite. Solid State Drives usually have a life expectancy that can vary depending on how much and how often new information is written and rewritten. This is not nearly as much of a problem as it was earlier on, when some drives were expected to last only a couple years before wearing out, but for serious power users, it is still something to consider. Some drives are advertised to have higher endurance, and these types should be a target item for someone who’s expecting to give a heavy workload. With average usage, however, most modern drives can be expected to last around ten years, but one must still be conscientious, especially later in the drive’s life, and take necessary precautions by keeping important data backed up.
If for some reason a Solid State Drive is to lose data, getting said data back can be very difficult, and even some of the more advanced data recovery tools in the world may be incompatible or outright unable to retrieve it all. Unfortunately, with Solid State Drives being Flash Memory, everything in the drive is stored as a series of electrical signals. This also means that Solid State Drives that are left without power for extremely long periods may begin to lose data should their internal power run out. Thankfully, most drives can remain unplugged for up to a year, however long term storage should always be backed up on a mechanical drive or through the cloud at this point in time.
Now, there are different types of Solid State Drives out there, but most of these points should apply in almost any case. Honestly, the best option in most cases is to have both types of drive. If the computer supports more than one drive, it’s never a bad idea to have the operating system and the programs on the snappy Solid State, and then use the Hard Disk for storage of files and documents – that way, one can get the best of both worlds; the speed of a Solid State and the storage space of a Hard Disk. In some cases, where two isn’t an option, there are Solid State Hybrid Drives, which can have some of the advantages of both together. Keep in mind, it is a bit of a compromise, so where possible, the two separate drive is the better option.
Were there a ranking for the most dangerous and show-stopping malware, the various types of Ransomware, and especially Cryptoviruses, would top the list. Imagine this scenario:
You’re browsing the internet, maybe watching a Youtube video, checking Facebook, playing a game, or maybe even reading some Emails, when a program pops up telling you that it’s time to update an innocuous program such as Adobe Flash Player. You think to yourself, “Sure, Flash is pretty important, I’ll update it.”
You continue going about your business when suddenly, your computer locks up and a window like this appears.
Now, to most people, this will be pretty jarring. As if the accusations were not startling enough, the page also turns on the user’s webcam and displays a live video feed, as if collecting video evidence. However, the page is a clever ruse designed to convince users that the FBI (or some other government organization) believes that they are guilty of a crime and requires them to pay a fine to avoid criminal charges or jail time. Rebooting the computer does not solve the problem, as the virus starts with the afflicted computer. The computer remains locked until the “fine” is paid, and in some cases paying might not even unlock the computer. Now, this type of virus is much more invasive and troublesome to defeat than most, and even harder to avoid. However, in most cases, an experienced technician can find a way around it, so that it can be removed.
CryptoLocker, CryptoWall, and other Encryption Viruses
On the by and large, Ransomware can usually be defeated in relative brevity by technicians with the proper set of knowledge and tools at their disposal. But what happens if the virus does more than just lock up your computer?
A Cryptovirus is one type of Ransomware that not only locks up the user’s computer, but encrypts all the user’s data as well. When the data (which can range from pictures to Word documents to AutoCAD work files) is encrypted, it becomes unreadable and inaccessible unless the person trying to open the files has the decryption key. This can be pretty problematic, as even if the virus is removed, the data will remain encrypted.
What Can Be Done?
Most of these dangerous programs encrypt the files of the victim’s computer with a heavier encryption than the average bank, so trying to crack it is not only unfeasible, but practically impossible.
If the files are of little consequence or not worth the effort, then your technician can remove the virus and get the computer working again, but the data could be lost forever. Occasionally, the good men and women of the various cybercrimes divisions in agencies such as the FBI, Interpol, or alternatively, the employees of various companies specializing in data security, expose a vulnerability in the encryption or manage to obtain a set of decryption keys with which previously encrypted files could be returned to normal.
The first version of CryptoLocker was shut down in a joint effort in such a way, and one of the parties managed to obtain the decryption keys so that victims of this attack were able to unlock their data. As such, if you would appreciate the possibility of eventually getting your data back, speak with your technician about saving the encrypted data somewhere long-term, as the potential for this to happen again exists.
There is also the option of paying the ransom, however such a prospect is usually expensive (in the order of several hundred dollars) and is not guaranteed to work. In addition to this, if one chooses to pay, it can be difficult even to execute such a payment as often the virus maker will request Bitcoin, or some other form of anonymous cryptocurrency, which can be difficult to acquire and transfer. There is also the distinct possibility that any ransom paid could go to the funding of either terrorist organizations, or at the very least, supporting such cyberattacks in the future.
Prevention and Safeguards
Unfortunately, at the present time, the best way to deal with this type of threat is not to run into it at all. Keeping an up to date antivirus, maintaining good browsing habits, and always reading the screen before you click “accept” should improve your chances.
Preferably, an antivirus providing real time protection should be considered, since these types of viruses are the types that need to be stopped at the gate. Once they get in, it could very well be too late.
Besides this, data backup is paramount. There is no such thing as a perfect defense, and when something does get through and wreak havoc, you will want to know that your data is safe. In some cases, even data backups can be affected, so it’s good to use your local technicians as resources to finding the best strategy for your situation.
If you are like most people, you’ve probably already given up on your New Year’s resolutions of going to the gym every day and ending your addiction to snack foods. Why not replace these resolutions with something more practical and less exhausting? Resolve to back up your data.
Only a few years ago, it was common to have countless dusty boxes of snap shots from family vacations, graduations and first steps or if you ran a business invoices, contracts and expense reports. Those days are essentially over. Our priceless moments in time, music, favorite recipes and financial details have all gone digital. Storing these things in zeroes and ones instead of in countless boxes seems better. However, there are risks – hard drives fail, viruses and other malware can slip in and wreak havoc of data and files can be accidentally deleted. However, it is possible to minimize the risk of some important piece of personal or professional information being destroyed – consistently back up your data.
Creating a data backup does not have to be a complex, time consuming endeavor. It’s definitely far less time consuming, frustrating, complex and costly than trying to recover a file. There are also multiple storage options, which allows you to pick the solution that best fits your unique needs.
External hard drive – External hard drives, as the name suggests, are external storage device for your computer. External hard drives tend to have large storage capacities and can connect to a computer via USB or Firewire, but can be bulkier to transport than other external storage choices. If you use Windows, you can configure the operating to system automatically backup your files at regular interval to an external hard drive. A similar feature, Time Machine, exists for Apple users.
Flash drive – Flash drives are small, inexpensive storage devices that come in a variety of shapes and storage capacities. They typically connect to a computer via USB and are excellent option for backing up or transporting small to medium amounts of data among machines.
SD card – Secure digital (SD) cards are small, hot swappable storage device typically used in cameras and mobile devices. Although SD cards were not originally intended as a mechanism for general computing storage, many modern laptops and desktops include an SD slot, which makes the cards an option for backing up data. SD cards have theoretical storage limit of 2TB, but cards above 32GB are rarely commonly available. In additional to traditional SD cards, you can also use an EyeFi SD card, which have built in Wi-Fi.
Cloud storage – In the last few years, several personal cloud services have emerged. From Apple to DropBox, multiple options exists for storing your data without keeping up with another device. In addition to multi-purpose cloud storage, specific backup solutions like Handy Backup, Carbonite and SugarSync can automate the backup of your data to the cloud.
Given the multitude of options of available, you should be backing up your data. If you’ve already experienced the nightmare of losing valuable data or need additional help RBG Computer Solutions has deep expertise in data recovery. We have 97% success rate in recovering data lost from operating system crashes, damaged hard drives, deleted files, reformatted drives, corruption from power surges and other catastrophic events.