16 St. Louis Libraries hit with ransomware. Click here to check out the original story.
Libraries used to be about books and borrowing. Now they have movies and computers and some even have showers. It’s all about meeting a need. Libraries will never be obsolete as long as they keep adapting to what people need.
But providing information services comes with new challenges. Physical crimes are occurring with regularity in libraries, bringing up issues of physical safety. But just as important are the safety issues with the availability of information.
The First Amendment
Libraries may be the strongest supporters of the right to free speech. When Congress tried to force libraries to use filters to get Internet discounts, the American Library Association sued them.
So libraries want patrons to have full access, which means all those people who want to use library equipment and online resources are free to go to possibly dangerous websites and download dangerous malware.
What is Ransomware?
There are different kinds of ransomware, and knowing them helps protect against them.
- Scareware–These are the ones where a pop-up keeps announcing that large amounts of malware have been discovered and they will be removed if you pay. These aren’t really dangerous, and a quick security scan should find and delete them.
- Screen lockers— These produce a full-size official-looking seal upon booting up saying there has been illegal activity and now the computer will be restored if you pay a fine. You can try running a scan from an external drive, but you may have to do a full system restore.
- Encrypting ransomware — These actually take files and hold them hostage until you pay the ransom. This kind is really bad, because this damage is permanent.
The best and only real defense is prevention
Cybersecurity needs to be top-notch and state-of-the-art to stay ahead of the bad guys. Start with constantly monitoring antivirus software and add applications that specifically protect against threats like malware. Make sure you have both anti-malware and anti-ransomware programs.
Keep backups of all data and programs regularly. Use physical drives which are disconnected after backing up, or highly encrypted cloud storage.
Stay ahead of the game
Educate your staff and patrons on security issues. People use libraries for job hunting and taxes, so their personal information is on those computers. Libraries can refresh the computer so that information is deleted after each user.
Possibly the most common way for computers to get infected is social engineering. Explain to all users about phishing, shady websites and other scams. Constant vigilance is key. If you want help you can contact Unity IT at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (559) 297-1007 in Fresno for all your online security needs.