TT203: Computer Virus

Many of you might have read press commentary following publicity of a major computer virus threat in the news.

Apparently the UK’s National Crime Agency has put out publicity about a potential major cyber threat.  This warning has been issued at the same time as the FBI have made other public announcements about criminal activity to steal personal data.

Whilst the NCA’s publicity is about a particular Windows virus, the threat over viruses and malware is a constant risk on all platforms and hardware.  Whether servers, PCs/laptops, tablets or mobile phones, viruses exist.  Whether Windows, iOS or Android, all have risks.

This is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the basic rules:

  1. On your computer, do not click or double-click ANYTHING unless you have confidence that it is from a known and trusted source.  This goes for:
    1. Attachments to email (anything from zipped folders, Word/Excel docs and pictures/videos to simple things such as pdfs)
    2. Weblinks
    3. Downloads from the internet
    4. Shared files and file-sharing weblinks from services such as Dropbox or Googledocs.
  2. NEVER install software on your computer, even the most basic thing, without double-checking with your internal IT team (or external support specialist).  At best you risk a clash with existing software or some internet tracking cookies; at worst it could provide a hacker with personal details, passwords, etc.  At the very worst it could bring a serious virus onto your company’s systems which destroys data and stops you working.
  3. Always ensure your laptop/PC has the latest operating system patches – for example, Windows do release monthly security patches which should be installed.
  4. Limit web browsing to trusted sites and do not surf “off-piste” on work computers (tell your staff to save their exploration of the wilder reaches of the Internet for home!)
  5. Do not share memory sticks with people unless you are confident they have similar anti-virus processes.
  6. Be careful with online banking (or any such online activity with a log-in) – if it does not look right then be suspicious in case you are under attack from phishing (trying to steal your password).  When banks say they will never ask for your full password they mean it and if you give away your passwords the banks will refuse to reimburse you for your loss!
  7. Use your memory sticks to back-up data from laptops when out of the office.  Do not keep your memory stick back-up in your laptop bag!  Yes, I know this is not really an anti-virus point, but if you do get a virus then the last back-up will be important.
  8. Do not let anyone use your computer equipment unless you know what they are doing.

Remember, if your laptop or PC is infected then you will not be able to work for some time and you might loose a lot of data.

Recently a client suffered from a Crypto Lock virus which encrypted his whole hard drive and a payment was needed for “security software”, basically a ransom, to unlock the data.  This severely infected his network and caused serious havoc.

Whilst you might have various software systems to protect you from virus attacks, they are not always infallible.  As ever the best defence is to be aware of the issues and alert to the risks.  As ever the weakest link in the protection might be the person operating the computer!

And remember, if someone sends you something you didn’t expect, I doubt they’ll think you a fool if you call to ask them if they truly sent it before opening it.  They might even copy your behaviour and save themselves a virus infection down the line!

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