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NHS Encryption Virus Drama

NHS Encryption Virus Drama

A quick note on today's NHS encryption virus drama.

I try not to work on evenings and weekends, but in this case I'll make an exception!

I'm sure that you've all heard by now about the NHS being attracted by an encryption virus. Well, I am not so sure that it is a targeted attack ... much more likely that an employee has opened an email supposedly from a well known supplier, bank or courier company ... this has infected the PC and that has gone on to infect the network and all other computers linked to it both inside, and outside the organisation. Unlucky ... I hope that they have a backup!!

The BBC have a good summary of the situation here ... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39899646

I have actually just completed my next epistle for the Sherborne Times that I usually keep back until after publication but I'm sure they'll forgive me (thanks Glen!) on this occasion ... so here it is!



Sherborne Times June 2017

Backup, Backup, Backup …

I know I keep banging on about this, but during the last month I have had two clients fall victim to a ransomware encryption virus: One with a good outcome; and one without! Neither of them are stupid, but both had a momentary lapse of concentration and clicked on the link in a spoof email … it’s that simple! Most people have two types of data on their computer; email data and file data (pictures, documents & music).

So, let’s look at email first. If you want to be safe against computer failure, virus encryption or accidental loss of emails, you should be using a synchronous web-based email system like Gmail, Outlook.com or even the much-maligned BT Email using the IMAP method. All of these systems store your email on web servers and your computer just replicates that data. If you fall victim to data loss then you simply have to re-synchronise the data on the server. Most businesses use a product called Microsoft Exchange for their email that is very similar to the above, but includes more bells & whistles. My victim with the good outcome used Exchange!

Older email servers (Orange, TalkTalk, Eclipse etc.) using the POP system just collect mail from the web server and store it locally on the computer. No copy (or just a few days) is left on the server so data loss on the PC is unrecoverable as there is no alternate store. My less fortunate victim used this system and did not have such a good outcome ☹. However, they did have a backup of sorts, so let’s move on to file backup.

My less fortunate client had a removable backup disk that was used to make a copy of all their data files, including the emails, but the last backup was taken at the end of January, and the virus hit in April. We were able to recover 100% of the backed-up data and emails up to January but sadly nothing else and this is the problem with this type of backup. It is only as good as the last time it was used and the onus is on you to remember to do it regularly, but even then, you’ll still lose something since the most recent event.

Better, is an online backup system (LiveDrive or similar) where your precious data is constantly kept up-to-date on a remote server and should the unthinkable happen, all you have to do is download your data from the server again. Always running, always up-to-date, never forgotten! My fortunate victim used this type of backup, and whilst it did take several days to download it all, I think we managed to recover 99.9% of it. Emails were unaffected thanks to the Exchange system.

Beware of relying on Dropbox, OneDrive or iCloud, as encrypted data on your computer is faithfully uploaded to the server! If you pay for DropBox then they will helpfully recover your data for you if you ask nicely, but free users will have lost it all. These systems are NOT backup, they are just file sharing utilities.

As always, if in doubt or if you need help, you know where to come!


Added: 15th May 2017

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