Computing at Christmas time

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For many, Christmas time is the best time of the year. Celebrations, family and friends, presents, a week off work, all part of the fun. Of course, like Ebenezer Scrooge in Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” you might say “Bah humbug” to the Christmas spirit, but we love it. So the last thing we want to do in the run up is to spread doom and gloom, but while the rest of us are enjoying a great time, cyber criminals are making the best of the opportunity. Like Pantomime villains lurking in the shadows they are already plotting to steal our money, hurt our businesses, and many other forms of mischief.

Christmas Hackers

While you might associate Christmas with Christmas Crackers, hackers have an entirely different take on the festive season. Christmas has always been an inspiration for malware developers. The first we are aware of dates back to 1987. It was a virus known as the Christmas Tree that displayed an image of one before forwarding itself to your contacts by email. A few years later the same virus was responsible for the closure of IBM’s 350,000 terminal network.

Another example is Melissa-AG virus in the Christmas of 1999. It activated itself on Christmas Day, infecting word documents and attempting to reformat the C drive on the next restart. Not a great thing to happen to your computers on the first day back to work after the Christmas holidays.

In fact, there has been some kind of Christmas virus most years since then. The most recent was Christmas 2014 when the MerryX.A virus made an appearance in many inboxes across the world. While displaying an animation of Father Christmas, it installed malware in a SQLServer.exe file which then transmitted information gleaned from the computer to a remote website and attempted to install additional malware.

While we need to be aware of malware all through the year, it seems that we are far more vulnerable to it over Christmas. Phishing attacks; fraudulent websites that want our credit card details, Christmas spam with dodgy links; virus infested email purporting to be delivery information but which delivers its own special package of malware when we open it; these are just some of the many Christmas scams we need to be aware of.

Keeping your Computers Safe over Christmas

There are several things we can do to keep our computers safe over Christmas:

  • Update your antivirus software – it sounds an obvious precaution to take, but not everybody does so, especially when distracted by office parties and the like. Malware can take anti-virus software developers by surprise, but at least by updating you can protect against every currently know threat.
  • Update your operating system – Windows is constantly being attacked by hackers, and Microsoft tries to keep ahead of the game by continually updating its operating system. The easiest way to ensure that you do the same is to ensure that you elect to install Windows updates automatically.
  • Update your applications – it isn’t only Windows that is vulnerable to hackers; they also target vulnerabilities in apps. You should update Internet Explorer and other browsers, any software from Apple and Adobe, and Oracle’s Java. You can also install software that will check all your installed apps for available patches.
  • Back up your data – Cybercriminals aren’t the only threat to your data; thieves also enjoy the fresh opportunities Christmas brings, as do arsonists. If you are locking up your premises for a week or so, it is only common sense to ensure that your data is backed up and safely stored off-site or in the cloud. If you aren’t using a reliable back up system, then you should be.
  • Use a firewall – firewalls oversee the communications between your computers and the internet and keep you safe from intrusions and attacks. If you are using one of the recent Windows releases from Windows 7 upwards, there is a good built-in firewall. If not, you will need to install one.

New Year Blues?

What should you do if you return to work in the New Year and find that your computers have been compromised and your data is missing? The most important thing is not to panic; there is help at hand.
Computer Troubleshooters can help you recover any lost data and clean up your system from viruses and other malware. We can evaluate the security of your current system and provide solutions for any vulnerabilities. This includes anti-virus and malware protection, advanced spam filtering, along with router and firewall solutions.
Perhaps you should consider doing this in advance as a pre-Christmas present for your business.

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