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EDITORIAL: Dropping guard can be costly


People are pretty much aware that scams and criminal activity take place online.

Still, not everyone has their guard up against those opportunists’ attempts to take advantage.

That lesson hit home recently at the Pictou County Sports Hall of Fame, where curator Barry Trenholm describes the woes that found a way into their computerized files. With the use of Ransomware, the perpetrators managed to corrupt thousands of photos, documents and banking information belonging to the volunteer, non-profit group.

Considering the victim in this case – a small organization with limits in funding performing a wonderful, community-minded role – it’s clear that the people operating in these kinds of activities are void of conscience. But of course that’s part and parcel of most criminal action.

In the case of the Sports Hall, the demand for ransom to unlock files raised a dilemma. There’s no guarantee if you make payment that it will result in getting your valuables back, or unlocked.

Fortunately the organization has hard copies of many of the pictures, so they can be rescanned. However, the turn of events is a huge headache following years of effort to organize files electronically.

It’s a sad blow to this group, but in talking about it publicly, Trenholm has given everyone who hears the story pause for thought. Businesses, organizations, individuals alike – just how much sensitive and valuable information do we have in electronic form that could potentially be accessed by an outsider? For most people, lots.

The thing that aids and abets this is the reams upon reams of spam that computer users receive every day. Even for those with a careful eye, some seemingly innocent message can appear genuine.

Police and other organizations combatting criminal activity remind people to be vigilant in this regard.

Many people hear this advice from time to time, but perhaps are lulled into a false sense of security until hit by such an occurrence as befell the sports hall. But computer users really need to keep anti-virus software up to date, and also do scans regularly to remove any malware in their system.

Also vital is being ever vigilant when receiving emails from unknown senders. Avoid clicking on links, zip files or other attachments unless you’re sure.

Keeping backup files of all important information is other sound advice.

It’s easy, however, to review all these good practices in an objective setting. Putting it into practice 100 per cent of the time is another thing.

Training for this kind of vigilant, cautious mindset would be an excellent topic that businesses and community organizations should consider. It should be the same kind of everyday, sage advice as warning people to shut the barn door before the horse bolts.

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