Are you backed-up and protected? Predators are prowling amidst the COVID-19 WFH prey!

In the 80’s and 90’s, many a thesis writer lost their minds after a hard disk crash. Tears would flow freely and those were tough times. On one instance, someone thumped the door of the Ecolab at the Department of Zoology. It was middle of the night but door thumper Adrian Elangovan knew we’d be awake and set me on the problem. It was a PC of a PhD student in a very warm room full of humming equipment, while under-powered air-conditioners creaked in defiance of the though of providing cool air.

Thankfully, it was merely a Windows OS crash, so some commands for the underlying DOS system saved the day! I left him with an F2 key which would back up his wordprocessor files to an external 135MB disk.

No more adventured these days, thankfully, because of cloud storage. This is why all my research students get a Dropbox Pro account once they begin.

Research student folder
Research student’s project Dropbox folder, all synced with me

A new problem has emerged for the times ad its ransomware! An honours student was ransomed but didn’t cough up the required bitcoins. Instead she alerted me to stop sync-ing at my end and to stop my occasional local backup. Her warning delivered, she for Dropbox’s help to recover the most recent healthy version of the file and all was well.

My current cloud and local back up protocol has been in place at least since 2015 which has allowed me to shrug off the sudden death of several overworked laptops and easily update my most recent 15.1″ Mac Book Pro.

Well, fast forward a few years later and it seems we are still a juicy target in Singapore; just two weeks ago, “Microsoft has warned that Singapore has suffered from more drive-by download attacks [malware insertions] than any other country in the Asia Pacific region in 2019.

While there was a 27% decline in region, “…Singapore experienced a 138.5 per cent rise.” [“Microsoft warns of spike in drive-by download attacks in Singapore,” by Hariz Baharudin, 17 Jun 2020 (link)]

Keir Thomas at MacWorld write recently to remind us of the good news: all this while, macOS has anti-malware protection built in. Go to Apple > About this Mac > System Report > Software > Installations > XProtect – I checked and it had just been updated (30 Jun 2020). Just as well, since ere are always new variants afoot.

macOS antimalware
macOS has anti-malware called XProtect, which gets updated

Now, with lots of us working from home during COVID-19, many of us will fall short of enterprise-level protection and this has surely meant more mischief must be afoot. While government and corporates fight off daily attacks, we need protection too. And not all feel macOS’ XProtect will suffice.

I have been using Sophos’ free antivirus and there is no performance bump on my 32GB RAM Macs. Get this free software if nothing else. And if you feel jittery, the paid plans add further protections including ransomware, and come well recommended by MacWorld.

Sophos Plans
Basics are free, more protection with payment

Mind you, Tom’s Guide and TechRadar Pro and PCMag all say BitDefender, which you can get for an even cheaper price right now.

Do we macOS users need any of it? Attacks are not unheard of, but not common, so it all depends on your appetite for risk, doesn’t it? But before you check out software, do attend to some basic settings first. Peace of mind is priceless!

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