Jackpot!

We all have a level of risk we’re comfortable with.

I’m okay spending ten bucks a week on the microscopic chance of winning one of the lotteries operated and widely promoted by the government. You may feel the same, you may not.

I’m also fine with investing months of my life on the even smaller possibility of hitting it big as a writer*. I know some of you think that’s an insane gamble.

* To be clear, the goal is getting my books published so people can read them and making enough money that publishers will continue to buy them. Cracking the best-seller lists and making oodles of dough is what Corporate America calls a “stretch goal”.

The point is not that I’m crazy. The point is that there are some games I won’t play, but plenty of other people do.

Case in point: the ransomware game. Now there’s one with high odds.

Sure, you might go a lifetime online and never get infected. If you stick with well-known companies that don’t run ads on their websites, you’ve got a good chance. Mind you, you need to go directly to their sites, not look them up on your search engine of choice. And, really, does anybody stick with just two or three websites?

Okay, yes, there are search engines that don’t show ads. And entertaining websites that don’t show ads and never get hacked. You might get lucky.

But ransomware is on the rise. It’s the attacks on cities that’s getting most of the media attention, because that’s something new and different. Newsworthy, by definition. But attacks on individuals haven’t stopped, and–anecdotally–are becoming more common as well.

Which shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s a great moneymaker. As with spam, all you need is one success to cover the cost of thousands or even millions of attacks. And, also as with spam, you don’t just get one victim forking over the cash (or Bitcoin).

Your profit goes up even further if you don’t actually respond to anyone who pays up. Why maintain the infrastructure to send out decryption software and keys? It’s not like a brick and mortar company, whose victimscustomers have to be able to find them. You’re hunting down your own customersvictims and not giving them a choice about doing business with you.

So, yeah, the odds in the ransomware game suck.

Install anti-virus and anti-malware software from a reputable company. Even better if it includes a browser plugin that highlights links known to be unsafe. Make sure to keep it up to date. Install a pop-up blocker as well–many attacks are made via windows that pop-up behind your main window and do their work before you even realize they’re there.

And keep multiple backups of anything you can’t stand to lose. (I keep my writing in Dropbox which backs up continuously and keeps thirty days of history so if I had to, I could go back to an older, uninfected version of every chapter of every book. I also run an hourly backup from my main computer to a second computer in another room and a daily backup to a third machine in another state. It’s not a perfect system, but there’s that level of risk thing again.)

Back up, back up, back up. (Haven’t I said that recently?)

We all have our own comfort level with risk, but I don’t know anyone who wants to hit the ransomware jackpot enough to play the game.

4 thoughts on “Jackpot!

  1. Dropbox is your cloud of choice? I’m new to the cloud thing … as I’m the rural outpost with only the option of satellite internet. BUT … there are certainly some things I need to cherry pick to protect in dupli-tripli-cate. (I also back up to an external hard drive, which you were very helpful in guiding me to getting a much, much bigger drive.)

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    • Dropbox is my cloud of choice, despite their recent missteps with their Linux support. But my requirements are far from universal. If you don’t need updates to happen instantly across several machines, the OneDrive that comes with your Windows 10 may serve more than adequately. And iCloud is great if you’re primarily on Macs.

      (Yes, there are other cloud storage/synchronization services, but I haven’t used any of them enough to have opinions.)

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      • Haha … you assumed I had Windows 10. Silly, silly you … remember, I’m the one trying to keep my iPod classic going. (I will give in to 10 when they stop supporting 7 … but ’til then …)

        I’ve used dropbox before … but this is all very helpful … thank you (as always!)

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        • Silly me, indeed. I did make that assumption.

          But the OneDrive software can be downloaded from Microsoft and used on Windows 7 (and it comes pre-installed on Windows 8 and newer), so the option is still available.

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