I woke up this morning to news of ransomware attacks on computers in more than 70 countries (The Telegraph (UK) reports 99 countries as of this writing), and my first thought was: BACK UP MY COMPUTER!
I’ve been thinking about a major back-up of my data for a few months now, but I’ve always come up with an excuse: I don’t want to spend three or four hours babysitting my computer. There must be an easy fix to keep my computer awake, but I didn’t want to spend five minutes looking that up, either. (UPDATE: Yeah, it took less than five minutes to find out how to do that. No excuses now! Your system may be different, so let me just encourage you to find out if you don’t already know.)
But now, thousands of computers across the world have been invaded by this virus that puts all the files into gobbledy-gook, then threatens to delete everything unless the owner pays up. The Guardian (UK) says the ransom is $300 (233 pounds/34,000 yen). I’m worried. This relatively low ransom, and the scattershot targeting of victims suggests that the criminals in charge don’t care what havoc they wreak. They are interested in hitting a lot of people and making their money on volume and pure fear.
So, the message of the day is make sure your anti-virus programs are up-to-date, and back up your data, especially your writing. Sure, it’s no use locking the barn door after the horse is stolen. But I think there’s a great deal of value in locking the barn door after your neighbor’s Maserati has been stolen from his garage. We should be practicing Safe Computing, we know we should be doing it, and it’s just a matter of setting aside an afternoon and/or evening to just do it.
For writing, I would suggest at least two back-ups: one in the cloud and one on a physical device that you keep near your home. This will ensure that you have a back-up in case of ransomware, and also in several other computer-destroying scenarios.
When we ladies file-share our stories for critique purposes, we use Dropbox (they have free storage plans for 2 GB, and I keep hearing satisfied murmurs from people who have the paid plans).
You could use the free Google Docs, too. Google gives you 15 GB of free storage on Google Drive (some catches, like your Gmail accounts and everything you save across Google services seems to be part of this 15 GB).
You can find a comparison of online storage options here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_online_backup_services Please remember that Wikipedia is a good start to your research process, not the end. Double-check and make sure you have accurate information.
So, what’s the good news about this whole mess? Well, it will get lots of people up to date with their security and their back-ups. And for writers, this scenario just gets the imagination going, doesn’t it? Gloom and doom is great for writers! Just imagine the consequences and where our future as a computing society is headed. Then, find some characters to act out that new world. This is the kind of writing prompt that will get your heart pumping and your head pounding, so take advantage of it while you can.
UPDATE: The Guardian reports that the WannaCry virus has been stopped! Hooray! So, now if you want to write about cybersecurity heroes, you have some real-life models to work from! On paper with pen, while your files are backing up (-:.