Cyber-security has been in the news a lot lately with ransomware attacks happening to businesses both large and small. Last month, those of us here in the Atlanta metro area felt the effects firsthand of one of those ransomware attacks (Colonial Pipeline). While that crisis has passed, you never know when there will be another one. Small businesses can find themselves victims of a ransomware attack as can individuals. It can be pretty scary but there are steps you can take to create more protection for yourself. While no one can guarantee complete online safety, read on for additional information that will supplement and enhance your chances of keeping your online activity safe and secure.

What is malware?

Malware is software that is intended to damage or disable your computer and computer system.

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a malicious software that will block access to your data until you pay a ransom. Sometimes, the cyber-criminals will threaten to raise the ransom if you don’t respond within a certain period of time.

What’s the difference between the two?

When you’re the victim of a malware attack, you may not even be aware of it. Your computer may still continue to work while the malware lurks in the background, secretly picking up your keystrokes that will allow it to learn your user name and password to any website you access while the malware is on your computer.

On the other hand, if you’re a victim of ransomware, you’ll know it immediately because you’ll be “greeted” by a screen informing you that your files are locked until you pay the ransom demanded.


  • Back up your personal files on a regular basis.
    • Manual backup is more than just saving another copy of a document using a different file name. This is a great convenience factor but it’s not a backup system.
    • An effective manual backup system means you copy your documents onto another media or hard drive, away from the computer on which you created them.
      • Some of these options include an external hard drive, CDs or flash drives.
    • Online backup is another option that can be easy, cost-effective and automatically protects your files.
      • Once you’ve selected an online backup provider, your files will be automatically backed up on a regular basis, allowing you to focus on other things. You simply pick the files and folders to be backed up and your provider takes care of the rest.
      • Your files will be automatically encrypted which gives you an added layer of security.
  • NEVER click on a link provided in an unsolicited email, even if that email looks like it came from your bank, a credit provider or friend.
    • Quantum will NEVER send you an email asking you to provide confidential or personally identifiable information and neither will most other financial companies or institutions.
      • If you receive an email that asks you to click a link or provide personal information, get out of that email and contact the “source” independently by typing in the website address yourself OR calling the company’s number using the phone number found on your credit card or past correspondence.
      • If you receive an emailed link from a “friend” with no specific message that just asks you to click the link, again, contact that friend directly and independently to verify that the link actually came from them.
  • Invest in good anti-virus protection for your computer. There are a variety of strong options available at no or minimal cost. A Google search will give you several options along with reviews that will help you decide which one will work best for your particular situation.
  • NEVER send confidential information of any kind through email. Even if you have protected your personal computer, once the information gets out there into “cyber-space,” there are many ways it can be intercepted.
    • If you do need to submit personal information to a company or service provider, they should have a secure form available for your use.
  • Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi. Deciding to check your bank account balance while enjoying a cup of coffee at your favorite hang-out may seem like a good idea but you never know who’s lurking at the next table, ready to intercept your unsecured communication. Check your favorite websites? Yes! Check anything private or secure? NO!
  • Set a secure password.

Again, while no one can guarantee your online safety, taking a few simple but important steps can go a long way toward making your information safer and more secure.

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