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How To Keep Your Computer Clean Of Ransomware

clean computer

Environmental Cleaning Services is the Dallas Fort Worth area’s best office and commercial cleaning services company. And while we are proud to offer building and office janitorial services, we thought it would be a good time to pass along some tips and suggestions on keeping your computer’s software clean in light of recent news. This past week millions of computers around the world were attacked by a type of malware or “ransomware” known as WannaCry. Ransomware causes a user’s computer to lock down and popup appears notifying the computer owner or user that they can regain access by sending approximately $300 in bitcoin.

Who Is Affected

This particular bit of ransomware only affects Windows users. This does not mean that Apple users can get by without any vigilance with over a 744% rise in malware on MacOS last year alone. WannaCry was built on an exploit in the Windows system that has been around since Windows XP and the exploit itself was actually developed by the NSA before being leaked. It has spread quickly throughout Europe and Asia and has been affecting many hospital systems that are running on older software. It can and still is affecting many home and small business users, however, so it is important to make sure that your computers are safe from this threat.

How To Clean Your Computer Of Potential Malware

  1. Update your computer to the most recent version. Microsoft has sent out security updates fixing this exploit and has even offered updates for older versions of Windows that are no longer supported, such as Windows XP. If you are running Windows XP and are having trouble updating your computer, you can download security updates HERE.
  2. Update your antivirus. Many of the best antivirus programs for Windows are free and don’t require a subscription. Two that we recommend are BitDefender (there is a paid and a free version, you only need the free version unless you are an enterprise level business). The other free antivirus we recommend is made by Microsoft and is called Windows Defender.
  3. Run an antimalware program. Malware is different than a virus and is usually acquired differently. Most computers tend to get malware from clicking on suspicious links or emails, or frequently it can happen when installing a program that the user actually wants but that also installs “extras”. Always make sure to read each step before clicking “next.” One of the best antimalware programs available is Malwarebytes. This also has a paid and free version. The free version should definitely be enough. Unlike an antivirus, Malwarebytes is not always on. Just open and run it occasionally. Definitely run it if you notice unusual activity such as your home page changing without you doing anything, a new search bar that you don’t remember installing, or an excessive number of ads or popups that you didn’t used to get. Malware can be as dangerous as the WannaCry ransomware but is usually adware, meaning it installs ad systems on your computer and you get spammed with a lot of ads.

Keeping Your Computer Clean

Update your computer regularly. It can be a hassle and occasionally can change things from the way that you prefer but the vast majority of those updates are security patches and fixes. This is your first line of defense against computer related problems.

The second line of defense is to keep your software updated. This means your antivirus but also the rest of your programs. You can have your computer completely up to date but if you’ve ignored 2 years worth of Quickbooks updates then you’re vulnerable. Yes it can be a pain, but just pick a slow afternoon once a month or even every other month and make sure that everything is up to date.

By far the biggest barrier is you, yourself. Don’t click on suspicious links, emails from strangers or odd looking emails from people or businesses that you do know. As previously mentioned, be careful when installing new programs and make sure to read everything before clicking next. Often it can be helpful to click “Custom Install” rather than “Express” even if the express install is recommended. Usually the custom install just asks where you would like to install something or whether you want a desktop icon, but often there can be unwanted programs packaged in there that need to be unchecked before the install proceeds.

Finally, make sure to have your computer backed up. Preferably with both an onsite backup using an external hard drive and an online backup such as Mozy. The external hard drive will protect you in the event of a problem such as an online company going out of business or having problems, but an external hard drive won’t save you if your house burns down or is destroyed by a tornado, or if your computer and hard drive are stolen. If you can’t afford both, picking just the external hard drive and then backing up important documents using a free service like Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive is a great way to cut costs and have at least some online backup.

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