Software will not improve with age. That outdated operating system you’re happy with because it's setup the way you like it, or because ‘it’s working just fine’ is the ultimate weapon for hackers looking for easy access to your files.
Cyber criminals frequently and automatically scan websites and PCs with different types of malware, to see if there are vulnerabilities they can use to gain entry to your system. Outdated programs provide these cyber criminals with an easy path to your computer.
At Meridian we continually see innocent victims facing the loss of years of personal data because they had no security protection, nor did they have backups of their files. On any given day you can read about some organization whose systems were attacked and their data is at risk of being lost.
Not all hacks happen to business systems. In fact, targeting multiple individual users can actually be more lucrative for malware developers. Just in the last month we have seen several customers who experienced a lockout screen and a ransom note requesting payment for the release of their personal files. The potential loss of important files and irreplaceable photos is extremely painful for our customers.
Consider: How would you feel if your precious photo collection or work documents were at risk of being destroyed forever unless you chose to pay a ransom? To make sure you don’t end up in this position, read our 5 steps on how to spring clean your PC.
5 Steps to Spring Clean your Windows PC
1. Remove Unused Software
Over time you’ve probably acquired a number of applications that you’re no longer using. Removing any PUP's Potentially Unwanted Programs, add-ons, tool-bars etc., may significantly speedup your system and reduce security vulnerabilities. We are all guilty of downloading a trial version of some program that we no longer use; like that DVD burning program you downloaded to make your child's graduation video. These applications are just clutter that ends up consuming a significant amount of your PC's resources.
Delete all unnecessary programs!
You won’t regret it and if you need these programs again in the future, you can always download up-to-date versions. Aside from acting as backdoor access points for hackers, these programs take up space on your computer and slow it down. Who needs to scroll through 100 unused programs just to get to the one that you actually need?
2. Install all System and Software Updates
You’re sitting at your computer and one of those little icons pops up alerting you to the fact that yet again you need to update a program. Constantly installing and updating your software may seem painful, and you may wonder why Windows needs to be updated so often, but the cost of ignoring these updates may end up being much higher than the 2-minute system restart that is required.
So, why are updates so important? Because they address important changes to the program such as:
- Security Vulnerability Fixes: A vast majority of software and operating system (OS) updates are to patch security vulnerabilities in programs (like those sneaky backdoor access points we keep mentioning in this article).
- Bug Fixes and Product Enhancements: The best reason to keep software updated is to address security holes in programs, but it’s also nice to have the latest features to improve your program’s performance. If you find manually updating software too troublesome, then set important programs to auto-update.
3. Remove all Malware from your PC
Remove all Malware including Viruses, Spyware, Adware, Rogueware and clean-up system files and perform all updates on a regular basis. Clear and reset all system settings to optimal settings, removing any potentially unwanted modifications (PUM's).
If you don't have one already, make sure to install an anti-virus/malware program, and do a thorough scan of your computer. Most importantly keep the Malware software updated and run scans regularly.
4. Back Up your System
Unfortunately, it's an all too familiar story, you know you should do it, but don’t do it as often as you should — regular backups stored on a disconnected device really are your best defense, particularly against ransomware attacks. Ransomware will often explicitly target backups which is why it is important to store them where they can’t be readily reached. In general, there are two options:
External hard drives are one option as they can be kept physically disconnected from your computer and locked away for safekeeping. However, if your backup remains plugged in it is as susceptible to ransomware as the hard disk of your computer. So keep your backup updated and you MUST make sure to disconnect it from your computer after every backup performed to keep it completely safe from Malware.
Backing up online using a cloud service is a convenient option that will also protect your data in case of theft, damage or other physical threats. One viable option is a program such as our Meridian CloudDrive. This program will run unattended in the background, updating your files in the programs cloud storage. Once the program is setup, there is no need to plug or unplug an devices. Keep in mind this option requires a monthly fee and the first backup can take quite a long time, particularly if you have a lot of files accumulated over the years.
Regardless of your chosen method regularly scheduled (automated) backups are always your best insurance policy against ransomware attacks.
5. Maintain a Quality Anti-Malware Solution on your System
Your first line of defense should always be an up-to-date PC security suite. Having an anti-malware solution that will monitor program behavior and catch any online threats, including ransomware, will create extra layers of protection.
Ultimate protection requires a layered approach
While the 5 tips laid out seem obvious, the key is to ask yourself the following:
Do you really do all of these things on a regular basis?
If the answer to this question is NO Meridian PC Solutions highly recommends that you come in and take advantage of our Spring Clean-Up Special which will get you on track to ensuring your computer is running efficiently and your data is protected.