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Ransomware

Q: My office computer was recently attacked with a LOCKY ransom virus. Many files on my server are currently locked. I plan to wait for the unlock key to be discovered.

A: Ransomware has without a doubt been very problematic for many people, unfortunately it is also very effective. LOCKY carries the trend of most flavors of ransomware, but its also pretty well put together in terms of its effectiveness as it disables built-in features that might aid in recovery and also effects any drive attached to the Windows session (https://blog.malwarebytes.org/threat-analysis/2016/03/look-into-locky/).

Unfortunately there is no current way to reverse the encryption other than to pay the “ransom”, but I do not suggest doing so as there is also no guarantee you will actually get the key to unlock your files. Because the key pair generated is specific to your server with an automatically generated username the possibility of a common unlock key is unlikely. I would encourage you to remove/isolate the compromised server from network, try to recover any data effected from backups (Local backups may have also been locked, however “cloud” based backups or enterprise/alternate backup solutions may be unaffected) and if the restore is successful to a non-compromised machine, wipe and reinstall the compromised server from a fresh image or known non-compromised backup. 

To enhance your protection against future compromise of other servers or workstations in your environment verify that you are running security suites that provide a broad range of protection (See either my website or evaluate other options by checking out the reports at http://www.av-comparatives.org).


Hotel WIFI

Q: I want to take computer along on trips. How do I access the internet when I am in one of these motels that has internet access?

A: Most hotels have at least one of two ways to access the internet while traveling. The easiest and most common is an in-room WIFI service that is either complimentary with the lodging or is an additional fee for a limited period of usage (usually 24 hours). The other connection point is the typical hardwire connection that would require you to carry a short network cable (RJ45-Catagory 5e, 6ft) to connect your computer to the wall plug, usually located around or in the desk. A hardwire connection can also be free or a paid service depending on the hotel. Either way I would shop around the hotels in the area you plan on staying, as many advertise WIFI but fail to mention if it is only located in the lobby or in the room itself and if the service is free or if it is an additional cost. 

Aside from the connection type and cost, there are a few things you should keep in ming while traveling. First, always get the exact WIFI connection name from the hotel desk and do not just connect to any WIFI network that says "Free" or "Hotel Wifi". If you are not connecting to the hotels exact WIFI network you are taking a chance of connecting to a "hacker" network. Second, always make sure you enable security measures on your computer like the System Firewall, Antivirus, Host intrusion Prevention (Included in some Antivirus Suites) and all user accounts on the computer have a secure username and password ( at least 8 characters with a mix of letters numbers and symbols). If you have a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service ensure it is in working order and always use it once connected to the network. Third, when surfing the internet be sure to verify critical websites like banking and personal websites such as macbook are connected to with a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) connection. You can verify that you have a SSL connection by checking the address bar for an "HTTPS://" prefix in front of the web address (Most browsers also show a padlock symbol that looks closed). Lastly, when you are done using your PC disconnect it from the network (WIFI or physical). As an example of why you should do this; While staying t a hotel recently I was able to successfully scan the WIFI network and find over 100 computers, iPhones, iPads and Android devices connected to the network. Had I been a bad person I would have a wide field to pick from and your information could have been in my hands.