Your first question might be what is ransomware? And its a good question, because ransomware is the latest of malicious practices appearing on the internet.
Despite my previous assertion that we would go a little deeper into WordPress and this post is most decidedly not about WordPress. The reason for the diversion came in the PCPak our church receives. In it was a Cyber Security bulletin regarding 3 separate ransomware attacks on the Presbyterian Church in Canada’s national offices.
I thought it would make sense to go off course to better explain what ransomware is and how you can protect yourselves and your churches against it.
As its name implies, ransomware is software that holds the data on your computer and connected hard drives hostage. Essentially the software encrypts the data (using what’s called a public key) and then displays a message on the screen telling you that if you want to regain access to the data (using a private key that only the ransomware company has) you need to call a number, credit card in hand, to pay for the privilege.
You are also warned that any attempt to remove the software will result in the private key being deleted immediately. In other words you will truly never be able to to recover your data again. Depending on who you are and for whom you work, the amounts vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars and the time to pay will range from 24 hours to a week – after which the private key will be deleted.
What sets this in motion in the first place? Clicking on a link in an email message or on a website that’s been compromised is usually the trigger. That click downloads the program that encrypts the data. And believe me it won’t say “Click here to encrypt all your data for a fee.” It will more likely be something along the lines of “Here’s a great picture from our vacation” or “Couldn’t wait to show you our latest addition.”
So the first line of defense – don’t click! This actually leads to a bit of internet etiquette. To the extent you are able, ignore and let your friends know that you will ignore any of those chain letter stories that tend to be circulated by email. Anything that asks you to “Click Here if you agree” or “Send this to the other people you care for as encouragement.” While most of these are benign, they have the potential to cause you, your friends and family significant financial loss. Who would want to be the cause of that?
The second line of defense is to back up your data AND make sure you understand how, where and when it’s being backed up. If the back up requires that you connect an external hard drive to your PC, make sure the drive is disconnected whenever its not being used. If it is connected at the time the ransomware is installed, then there’s a risk that it too will be encrypted.
Once again apologies for digressing from the WordPress theme, sometimes though there are more pressing issues that need to be addressed.
I’m continuing my efforts to build up the viewership of the IT4Worship Facebook page. If those of you with Facebook accounts will “Like” the page (https://facebook.com/it4worship), I will be able to reach a threshold where Facebook actually provides reader statistics.
Let me know that you have liked the page via email and I’ll send you a set of 4 landscape images that are perfect for displaying on your websites or in graphics for sermons, slides, etc. The images are royalty- and attribution-free so you can use them however you like.
Please let me know in the comments below if you’ve found this post useful (or not) and if you have any follow up questions.