“Back up, Forest, back up!” or How to outrun ransomware criminals by choosing the right Mac maintenance & protection solution

Ah, ransomware: Over the past few years, millions of PCs from around the world have been locked or had their files encrypted as a result of devious malware.

What we call “ransomware” today is a form of malware that is typically installed on one’s computer by way of a social engineering attack. The user gets tricked into clicking on a link or opening an attachment — once the malware is on the machine, it begins to encrypt all the data it can find there. Once completed, there will be two files in the directory that indicate which contents are being held hostage, alongside with instructions on how to pay the ransom in order to decrypt those files.

Sounds strange, but ransomware has become a very successful criminal business model. Some infamous examples of the “godfathers” of ransomware are CryptoLocker, Locky, and TeslaCrypt. One such outfit, CryptoWall, has generated over $320 million in revenues to date.

The first ransomware virus, AIDS Trojan (aka PC Cyborg), was created in 1989 by biologist Joseph L. Popp. The AIDS Trojan was first-generation ransomware that used simple symmetric cryptography, and tools were soon available to decrypt those filenames. However, the AIDS Trojan set the scene for what was to come.

According to Kaspersky Security Bulletin, in 2015 there were 1,966,324 registered notifications for attempted malware infections aiming to steal money via online access to bank accounts.  Various ransomware programs were detected on 753,684 computers of unique users; more than 179,000 computers were targeted by encryption ransomware.

In April 2016, CNN Money reported new estimates from the FBI which revealed the costs from so-called ransomware have reached an all-time high. Cyber-criminals collected $209 million in the first three months of 2016 by extorting businesses and institutions to unlock computer servers.

Unfortunately, there’s no end in sight. How can one protect himself and his valuable information from being encrypted into unreadable mess?

If I would think how to improve the usability and protect against crypto malware threats, I would suggest improving incremental backup strategies, which would supervise certain data sources, back them up automatically at any change, and allow them to be restored at any date in the time history. This way, I could easily revert back to before malware encrypted my files.”

The above suggestion was made via email from a Paragon Software customer, and indeed backup is a very efficient way to protect data. According to Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary (developed by Paragon in conjunction with Oxford University Press), “backup is a copy of a file, etc. that can be used if the original is lost or damaged.”

One of the most popular backup tools is Time Machine – the built-in solution for Mac, introduced with OS X Leopard. Time Machine works at the file level, which is inefficient when dealing with an active operating system and running applications. Files should be unlocked or closed for proper backup, which is not an option with most system files and those used by currently running apps.

Time Machine waits until user applications are closed and locked files become available to process, ignoring system files completely. That’s why OS X has a two-step restore procedure: The user first reinstalls the operating system before retrieving application and user files from the backup image.

There’s a better backup approach based on system snapshots, which considerably reduces backup and recovery times. For a better understanding of this method, let’s visualize the entire process.

You want to back up a particular state of your Mac. However, you know that some files are being constantly changed by the system, and some might be changed by you — such as working with them during the backup procedure. It means that part of your system will be backed up at one point of time and the rest some minutes later. This causes inconsistencies with file properties, and you won’t be able to restore references and links between such files.

Snapshot is like taking a photo of your filesystem, excluding changes made after that point. They will still be present on your hard drives and will be included with the future backups, but not the current one. That’s exactly why this is the only backup method that can be used to protect an active operating system. Additionally, although Time Machine waits until running applications are closed and locked files become available, the backup operation obviously takes more time than if it’s done with a snapshot-based utility.

To illustrate the difference, we performed an internal lab test, comparing the brand new Paragon Hard Disk Manager for Mac against Time Machine and another popular file-level backup solution. Have a look at the results:

Paragon Hard Disk Manager, backup, fastest

Paragon HDM for Mac is designed to create instant copies of a disk (or several disks) at a specific point in time. This technology takes consistent snapshots of both inactive and in-use partitions. Unlike Time Machine, HDM provides snapshot-based backup and operates at the sector level, achieving superior performance and speed.

As you can see from the graph above, it takes Hard Disk Manager far less time to back up 9.15 Gb of information than Time Machine or a similar solution. HDM for Mac comes with improved snapshot technology, enabling consistent image backups even as the data is being modified at that moment.

HDM for Mac is not just for backup — it’s a powerful application that covers all aspects of the computer’s life cycle, including drive partitioning, file system optimization and repair functions, data backup capabilities, and irreversible data wiping. It also supports all file systems of OS X, Windows, and Linux.

Get it now! Seriously, it’s that good.

Paragon Hard Disk Manager for Mac

  • System Integrity Protection in OS X 10.11
    El Capitan support;
  • Sector-level backup for best perfomance and backup/recovery speed;
  • Move, resize, undelete partitions and modify their properties;
    • Migrate Windows OS from one Mac computer to another;
      • Format volumes in any of the common file systems (NTFS, HFS+, ExtFS, FAT 16/FAT 32 and exFAT);
      • And much more!

Learn more about Paragon Hard Disk Manager for Mac

Paragon – Backup & Recovery 10 Suite review

Every computer owner has that awful scenario in the back of their mind that one day their machine will fail to boot up and all those valuable data files, operating systems and applications will be lost forever with little hope of recovery.

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Paragon, which has been working in this area for some 15 years, has now provided a comprehensive package that should be able to address and solve almost any disaster situation that might present itself.

Effectively, Backup & Recovery 10 Suite is a combination of three products in one. Drive Backup 10 Professional is the classic system and data protection method which offers a wide range of flexibility in how you go about backing up your precious material and where you want to send it.

The second product, System Backup, is for those who are not so technically minded or just want their protection performed simply, thoroughly and with the minimal amount of user effort.

The last element is a new venture for Paragon: Virtualization Manager, which migrates your physical system into a virtual environment so you can run it in a virtual machine on a different operating system.

Once the disk is installed, you’re presented with a completely straightforward menu with five choices: an instant range of backup and recovery options, the Virtualization Manager, extra Tools either to transfer files or initiate a Burn Rescue Kit, a troubleshooting Log Saver, and links to Support contacts. Every item in the sub-menus contains a brief summary of its function and purpose and a simple click will kick off the process.

The backup process works with Windows XP, Vista and 7 OS computers where there are no more than three partitions on the hard disk, and will automatically source the best place that has enough unused space to store all the data on the main disk. A snapshot of your hard drive will be immediately saved to this location and you can then determine how often you want this to be repeated.

If you choose to follow the Virtualization route, there’s support for popular software like Microsoft’s Virtual PC, VMware Workstation and VMware Fusion.

On the other hand you can also backup to an FTP server, while most system boot problems can be fixed for Linux, PTS DOS and WinPE 2.1 as well. New refinements that will also be welcomed include a more advanced system of filters, better support for Apple Boot Camp and colour indicators in the system tray that warn of possible dangers.
Paragon – Backup & Recovery 10 Suite features – Verdict

For less than $70 you can have a secure piece of software that provides vital backup for your systems and data, that can be as simple or as complex as you make it, in both physical and virtual environments.

*Original Article