Friday, 12 May 2017

Ransomware? I ain't bovvered.

Today Ransomware has crippled the world. The WannaCry malware program has (at the time of counting) infected 47,000 computers.
This is astronomical, catastrophic and unprecedented and has caused the NHS to crumble. For the typical man on the street, this may be cause for concern, but there are a number of reason why these morons do not cause me any worry at all (apart from the fact that I might be a bit stuffed if I fall ill now!). By changing the way you look after your data, you too could prepare yourself (and improve your digital life) by changing the way you use a computer and manage your data. These changes will also protect you against a personally catastrophic loss of your mobile device too, or your tablet.

First you have to imagine, worse case scenario, if you destroyed your device, so it was completely unusable, what steps could you take to get your stuff back? And what might you lose?

Contacts - your business could revolve around your contacts, so why on earth would your only copies of your contacts be on your phone (and still) on the sim card that sits in it? Or, in outlook on your computer... and nowhere else?

Photos - sentimental photos, professional work thats pending further production, photos can be essential and precious for so many people.

Music - For many, their digital record collection is a labour of love, a finely tuned collection honed over many years. I know mine is, even if it does have Shakin Stevens in it.

Video - Again from a professional point of view, some of these productions or projects could be essential for future contracts, again, or of sentimental value.

Documents - Finances, digital receipts, important PDF's, spreadsheets, likely a lot of important digital documents to look after here.

Calendar - If you only use outlook on one laptop, again, you could find the days after a malware attack pretty lonely, sad and unproductive!

So, assuming that we've covered everything above, and all of this digital data is important to you, how do you make yourself malware proof? You spread yourself out and you use the internet to your advantage. Firstly I'd recommend you think locally; at home & online. Have backups at home and make the most of services designed to help you look after your files. Although the malware that struck today only affected Windows machines, it pays to be cautious even if you've got a Mac and all of these solutions will work on Mac too.

First up, your best friend is Google. Google services can check off most of these quite simply.

Photos - Google Photos allows you to sync your photos folder with your google account, it's that simple, so long as you're happy to limit yourself to 16mp images (which in my opinion 4 x 4K is fine), you'll be able to access your complete photo library from your mobile phone via the app too and all of your photos will be backed up, recently, online and safe from harms way.

Music - Google Music allows you to sync your music library, for free and again, via your mobile, not only will you be able to free up space on your device, but, via a chromecast audio device, you'll also be able to stream your music in 320kbps to your hifi at home via Optical, 3.5mm or RCA input.

Calendar/Email/Contacts - All taken care of via Gmail! Calendars, Email and Contacts can ALL be synchronised with the service, and, you guessed it, synchronised with your mobile, for free! Update an appointment on your mobile, or a contact, and it'll sync with your gmail account, accessible either through your browser or synced with your Mail app.

Google Drive - This is where you should store your important documents, this is a little more restrictive, as you only get 15Gb, but so long as your music and photos are backed up elsewhere, this should be plenty. An app that you install on your PC will sync your google drive with your documents (you'll need to change the default folder where you commonly store things). Google drive also works extremely well with google docs, which means file access (spreadsheets, drawings and word processing) anywhere, whether you have your computer or if you're using someone else's.

Finally Video and no, perhaps surprisingly, I'm not going to recommend (Google's) Youtube (although you could use this), instead I'm going to recommended Mega. Mega is most similar to Google drive, but you get 50Gb of storage space, which is all encrypted, 50Gb should be enough for most home video collections, so long as they're coded properly.

At home, if you have a Mac, you should most definitely be using Time Capsule. If you don't, you will most likely will have a USB port in your router, plug in a USB drive which will allow you to back your computer up over wifi. Either automate the process or ensure you regularly throw copies of the above onto it from time to time put it in your diary, but use a pen and paper.

Stay safe and worry not.

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