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Mar 2017

How to back up data on Windows 10 PCs

Our last article warned about the rise in Ransomware attacks and how, if your PC is attacked, your data will almost certainly be destroyed and lost forever. In addition, the everyday hazards of spilling water on a laptop or suffering a hard drive failure can also result in disaster.

You can take steps to protect yourself by ensuring you have at least one external backup for your important files and that this backup is performed on a regular basis. In fact, many business users should have two or three backups, all kept in different locations.

There are two main types of backup that you can use to keep your important data safe. The first is ‘file backup’, which allows you to make copies of the files stored on your PC.

File History is a handy tool in Windows 10, which allows you to perform regular, scheduled copies of the data on your PC and store it on an external drive.

To set up File History you’ll first need to ensure a secondary drive is connected to your PC:

Click the
Start button then the Settings button (it looks like a gear and is found in the bottom-left corner of the Start menu). Then click Update & security > Back Up > Add a drive and then chose the drive you’d like to use as a backup.

You can now choose which files you want to back up:

Click the S
tart button then the Settings button. Click Update & security > Backup > More options > Add a folder. Choose a folder you want to back up then click on Choose this folder. If you add the wrong folder or want to remove a folder from the backup list, click the folder in the Back up these folders list then click Remove.

You can change how often a backup occurs, as long as the drive is connected:

Click the
Start button then the Settings button. Click Update & security > Backup > More options. Click the dropdown arrow beneath Back up my files, then click frequency options.

You can also change how long the backups are kept on the drive or network by clicking the
dropdown arrow beneath Keep my backups, then click a time limit.

REMEMBER THAT ONCE YOUR BACK UP IS FINISHED, YOU MUST DISCONNECT THE EXTERNAL BACKUP DEVICE FROM YOUR PC TO PREVENT RANSOMWARE FROM ATTACKING IT.

The other type of backup is a ‘system backup’ or a 'system image'. This is more complicated as it involves making a backup copy of the entire Windows operating system running on your PC, as well as all your programs, files and settings. If this is something you wish to carry out, give us a call.

More Ransomware

You may remember our article from last September regarding Ransomware and in particular the CryptoLocker virus. So why are we writing yet another article about this malicious malware? Simply because in 2016 there was a massive rise in the number of Ransomware attacks.

There are currently two types of ransomware in circulation:
  • Encrypting ransomware, which is designed to block system files and then demand payment to provide the victim with the key that can decrypt the blocked content. Examples include Cryptolocker, Locky and CryptoWall.
  • Locker ransomware, which locks the victim out of the operating system, making it impossible to access the desktop and any apps or files. The files are not encrypted in this case, but the attackers still ask for a ransom to unlock the infected computer. Examples include the police-themed ransomware or Winlocker.

Ransomware differs from other malware in that it features unbreakable encryption, meaning that you can’t decrypt the files on your own. It can encrypt all kinds of files, from documents to pictures, videos and audio files and it can scramble your file names, so you can’t know which data was affected. Usually, the ransom payments have a time-limit - going over the deadline will increase the ransom, but it can also mean that the data will be destroyed and lost forever

Victims are hacked by clicking on an innocent looking attachment or website link within an email. This releases malicious software
that destroys not only the victim’s data but also the data on any connected device including network shares. Ransom notes then appear demanding that money be paid in Bitcoin in return for a decryption key that will disable the virus. However, there is no guarantee that the key will work or prevent further attacks.

Ransomware creators target home users mainly because they often don’t have
data backups; because many users will click on almost anything and because their software and antivirus are not up-to-date (even if specialists always nag them to keep them updated!).

Businesses are targeted because that’s where the money is; because it can cause major business disruptions, which will increase their chances of getting paid and because computer systems in companies are often complex and prone to vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited.

Public institutions, government agencies in particular, are targeted because they manage huge databases of personal and confidential information that cyber criminals can sell; because they often lack defences that can protect them against ransomware and because they often use outdated software and equipment.

Like most malware, ransomware gets onto systems through untrusted sites and attachments. So protect yourself by installing
antivirus software, keep your operating system and applications up-to-date and don't visit any suspicious sites or open email attachments from unknown sources. The most important piece of advice I can impart is that you perform regular back-ups of ALL YOUR DATA onto an external hard-drive, then immediately unplug the device from your computer as ransomware can encrypt what is on that as well as what is on the computer.

Windows 10 app to block downloads

Microsoft is expected to roll out its Windows 10 Creators Update to the public this April (at the time of writing this article, the exact date has yet to be confirmed). It will include several bug fixes as well as an impressive feature which will let you block installation of WIN32 Apps and Software, otherwise known as EXE based applications.

Microsoft has confirmed that users will “now have the option to control what type of apps can be installed on your PC.” Basically, once the feature is turned on, if anybody tries to install a software which is not from the Windows store, it will give a warning saying:
You can only install apps from the Windows Store. Limiting installation to apps from the Windows Store helps to keep your PC safe and reliable.

The option is available under
Settings > Apps & Feature > Installing Apps > Choose where apps can be installed from. From here you can choose to only allow installation of Store apps, choose to be warned when installing a non-Store app but allow their installation, or choose to allow installation of apps from anywhere.

If you decide to only install apps from the Store, you will see a warning when attempting to install a non-Store app. “The warning will direct you to the Store where you can download an alternate app if available,” Microsoft has said.

The option is disabled by default, but it could be useful if you want to purposely prevent users from installing new programs, for example, in schools and businesses, and if you have multiple users on your computer, they will have to ask for a permission to get the installation done.

In addition, restricting the installation of Win32 programs should hopefully add an extra layer of security to help prevent malware from reaching a Windows 10 system, since many virus writers continue to rely on legacy desktop apps to spread infections across computers. But do note that it won’t provide a complete block on malware installation.

Other updates will include, amongst other things: improvements to Edge; more focus on 3D creativity; PC gaming improvements; a new Night Light which makes colour temperatures warmer at night so it’s easier on your eyes and easier to get to sleep right after using the computer, in theory.

So how do you get this update? If your PC is already running Windows 10, you should receive the Creators Update automatically since it's an update and updates in Windows 10 are installed when they're available. However, you can check for updates manually by going to Start, Settings (the cog icon), Update and Security, Check for Updates.