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Ransomware attacks a wake-up call to protect your devices

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“Ransomware” has been the new buzzword of late — popping up in the May “WannaCry” attack and again in another global attack last week that included the United States. And other online hacks have hit closer to home, including a hack of Idaho state websites and a ransomware attack in Bingham County that led to officials paying up to restore files earlier this year.

Across the country, the Better Business Bureau is joining with the National Cyber Security Alliance in encouraging you to educate yourself about the possible dangers. Ransomware attacks are becoming a regular occurrence, locking computers and networks using file encryption software, with hackers demanding payment by Bitcoin or other non-traceable crypto-currency to release the data. The attack typically enters through a phishing email and then spreads to other machines on the same network.

The Better Business Bureau joins with the National Cyber Security Alliance in suggesting the following cyber hygiene defenses:

▪  Don’t click on links from unfamiliar sources. Even if you think you know the sender, be cautious about clicking on email links. If you’re unsure, call the sender on the phone to verify. The extra minute is worth it when compared to the time it takes to recover from a cyber attack. When in doubt, delete it. Be especially wary of messages requiring you to act quickly, asking for personal information, or threatening you in any way.

▪  Keep clean machines: Prevent infections by updating critical software as soon as patches or new operating system versions are available. This includes mobile and other internet-connected devices.

▪  Use strong authentication, requiring more than a username and password to access accounts, especially critical networks, to prevent access through stolen or hacked credentials. Check out Lock Down Your Login for more information.

▪  Conduct regular backups of systems: Systems can be restored in cases of ransomware and having a current backup of all data speeds the recovery process. Don’t skip this step!

▪  Make better passwords: In cases where passwords are still used, require long, strong and unique passwords to better harden accounts against intrusions.

Business owners should take special precautions when it comes to protecting their customers’ information. One of the BBB Standards for Trust is to Safeguard Privacy. Protect any data collected against mishandling and fraud, collect personal information only as needed, and respect the preferences of consumers regarding the use of their information.

Looking for more ways to protect yourself and your customers from ransomware? Visit

Emily Valla,, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to or call (208) 342-4649.