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  • Jane Wheeler

No Technology is Infallible

When I took Victim Assistance training with the RCMP back in 2009 they warned us then that we should not be on Facebook. The reasoning is thus, Facebook is basically letting you use their real estate property for “free” and they went on to tell us that nothing is ever “free”; they are doing something with your information. This has stuck with me ever since, I personally use Facebook but am cautious as to what I post on it. Now the risk of identity fraud or worse. Read on…..

I was reading this week about “Ransomwear” – another hot topic of the day, where criminals get into yours, mine, and businesses computers and freeze all of the information on it. On personal computers it is usually our family “photos” or banking information and for businesses it is their clients personal information.

They make you pay in bitcoin to get your computer files “unlocked” – they will give you instructions how to obtain “bitcoin”. If you do not pay, they add a whopping $ amount per day on top of it. A normal family computer can cost about $500 to unlock and there is no guarantee that they will not do it more than once, hey they already have you infected.

It’s huge business - do not take this lightly!

It is the crime wave of the century.

In 2016 a hospital, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was targeted, their computers were down for a week and they had to pay $17,000 in bitcoin, in order to get their patients information all back. Some patients had to be transported elsewhere as the hospital could not access computers including CT scans, documentation, lab results, and pharmacy. The hospital went back to fax machines and land lines for the week.

In 2018 both the Hawaiian Fetal Institute of the Pacific and Portland’s Legacy Health got hacked. At a Hospice center in the states 2 employees’ accounts were hacked and opened up all the patient info to the hackers.

In November 2016 the San Francisco transit system was hacked and held ransom. They ended up giving rides for free as they were unable to use their electronic ticket machines.

Last week, in Canada, the head office of Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s, Milestones, Kelsey’s, Montana’s, Bier Market, East Side Mario’s was hit with a Ransomwear virus. A patron in Ontario found this note on the door of one closed Swiss Chalet restaurants in Ontario. Some locations remained open but debit and credit card transactions could not be made unless it could be done manually.

Previously thought by many of us that Apple computers are safe from this kind of attack, but my research shows that as of fall 2018, speculation is that Apple is the big target for the next year as they have now technology to hack into them.

What about our phones or ipads are they safe? Apparently not. While an iphone cannot be hacked itself, anytime your phone or ipad is connected (wireless or hard wired) to a computer the virus can be transferred.

So what do we do?

Talk to some reputable computer people and get ideas of how to do backups.

Regularly backup your computer to an external source, be it a thumb drive or a flash drive or some kind of external hard drive. The negative of this is that you can loose those little thumb drives, or if the house burns down, they get destroyed.

Can you use icloud, or dropbox? Yes, but again you are taking a chance that free real estate is always going to be good, safe and available. If you have large files, these companies will charge you for the extra space.

You can use a service such as Backblaze which specializes in this but again, it will cost you some money.

Print your pictures that are nearest and dearest to your heart as well as save them on the computer as a safe guard.

Why not use a couple of methods? It makes sense to know that your info, pictures, documents will be safeguarded.

Do NOT open random ads on any website – they are often the source of viruses. Do not accept a friend request from anyone you do not know – ever.

The WhatsApp app got hacked and their scam is that the person hacking will send messages to your friends pretending to be you and trying to get more personal information.

The RCMP in June of this year released the following warning about “sextortion” scams running over Facebook. I kid you not – it’s a thing.

My friends, technology is a wonderful thing when used wisely, remember nothing is ever for “free” and when you open up those pop up ads, or shop via unsecure sites, it can opening a world of trouble.

Never mind when those of us who like to “secret” some unsavory websites think we are doing it all alone and no one will find out – Hackers will (and possibly your family and boss if you bring the system crashing down).

A business I worked at had an employee viewing porn on the company computer, opened up a virus and brought the whole system crashing down. It cost us $21,000 to fix it. Nope, not kidding.

So as a business owner you have to take responsibility to do random monitoring of what employees are watching on your computer.

This is not meant to frighten you into staying away from technology but rather a good swift kick to say, if it’s free – say no thank you, do not post all your personal info onto social media, have a backup plan and take all the measures to protect your electronic info.

Conclusion: nothing is free – even salvation – it cost God “everything” – His Son, Jesus.

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