Do you have backups at home and at work?

If you don’t, now is the time to start getting organized.

A local company in Drogheda called me in a panic a few months ago.  They had a type of virus called a crypto locker.  This infection sits silently on your computer, encrypting all the files you save and open.  Quietly preparing to block access to every file you are likely to open.

If you get this virus, or as they are more commonly known as scamware, you have two choices.  Either pay using a potentially dodgy pay method to have the decryption key sent to you to allow you to unlock the files or restore your files using a previous backup.

The real problem comes when you don’t have a backup and you’ve paid to have the decryption key but it either doesn’t work, or worse, you pay over the money and no key is sent.

You absolutely must have a backup.  It isn’t just best practise, it’s vital. Please don’t think that this infection is only caught by a minority of Internet users.  It is far too prevalent to be taken lightly.

To make matters worse, this company had a central file share so when one person infected with the virus accessed a file on the shared directory, that file became encrypted so even if another computer on the network didn’t have the virus, on the day that the virus cut off access to the files it had encrypted, no user could access the file from any computer.

This was having a major impact on the business and for five days they were unable to find someone to clean their systems.  I got the call on Friday evening and on Saturday morning, a team of us were in the office to clean down every workstation and server. It took around six hours for everything to be restored and unfortunately, as one laptop had a number of infections, we had to take it back to the office to rebuild the operating system but by 12PM on Sunday, the system was fully operational again.

The only way this could happen was thanks to the forward planning of their previous system administrator.  Backups were taken of the shared files every night and by restoring to a time before the Virus was introduced to the network, we were able to recover 100% of the files that had been maliciously encrypted.

If backups had not been taken, the company would have lost thousands due to unpaid invoices and unmet deadlines.

Backups are important at home as well as at work.  Think of the technology you use every day.  Mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktops.  Is each device backed up? If you lost your tablet in the morning would you be able to recover all your data?  What if the hard drive in your laptop suddenly dies?  Can you do without the documents, music, pictures and videos that you have stored on it?  At the very least, a pen drive costs about €15.At the middle of the scale, a NAS (Network Attached Storage) box costs about €200.  With this, you can backup the computers and laptops in your house to one system.  Synchronize your tablets and phones to your computers regularly and / or use a cloud backup system to make sure you don’t lose any of your really important files.

For this post, we haven’t touched on cloud based backup solutions.  These are fast becoming very popular due to their affordability and scalability.  Be careful however that you read the privacy statements clearly and have a plan ready to cover you if your chosen cloud provider shuts up shop overnight.

A note about Crypto locker
This post was updated on 6th August as a recent article published by the BBC may suggest there is hope for anyone impacted by the Crypto locker virus. Unlock keys are now available for free.