Some time ago I wrote about my experience with ransomware (see Business of Editing: URLs, Authors, & Viruses, The Business of Editing: Backing Up Is Easy to Do, and Articles Worth Reading: More on Ransomware). As I made clear in the first essay, I attacked the problem aggressively and prepared for disaster.
Recently I took yet another step. This step is ideal for those of you unable or unwilling to invest in the type of computer setup I did, which I admit is not cheap. But this step is very inexpensive — it cost me $20.50 (the price was €15 and this was the conversion price). More important than the price is the protection I gained.
Sandboxie is a great way to access the Internet in protected mode. Sandboxie is for more than accessing the Internet, but that is all I use it for. Sandboxie opens programs and browsers in a “sandbox,” which means that anything that gets downloaded doesn’t get downloaded to your computer where it can do harm; it gets downloaded into a sandbox.
I use Internet Explorer as my web browser. I have now set it so that when I open IE, it opens in a sandbox. When I download, for example, client files from an FTP site, Sandboxie asks me whether I want to first open the files in a protected sandbox or save them to my hard drive. Basically, what Sandboxie is doing is setting off space on my hard drive as protected space that prevents malware from accessing my real files. Should it turn out that I have downloaded malware, I can instruct Sandboxie to delete it, knowing that the malware never got the chance to compromise my hard drive.
How important is this? The impetus for my looking for a program like Sandboxie was news reports about Cryptolocker. Cryptolocker is ransomware of the most vicious type. It attacks your data files and encrypts them. You either pay the ransom or never get access to your data files. Apparently even the data recovery companies, which charge several thousand dollars to recover data, are unable to break the encryption or if they can, not for a reasonable price and not for anything close to the price of Sandboxie.
In speaking with my computer technician about Cryptolocker, he said I had two choices should I get infected: pay the ransom or completely reformat my hard drive and reinstall all files (assuming I have backups of all of the data files). Both are expensive alternatives to Sandboxie.
Paying the ransom is problematic. They do send you the decryption key but they also leave on your computer the means to reencrypt. I have heard of instances where several months later that is what happened — renecryption with a new ransom demand.
Reformatting the hard drive is also problematic because it takes quite a bit of time and it assumes that (a) your backups are current and so you do not lose any information, (b) that your backups aren’t of encrypted files, and (c) that the backup doesn’t include Cryptolocker or similar ransomware malware.
This video from Sandboxie explains how it works:
It is pretty hard to go wrong for €15. The only thing I do not like is that the license is for one computer and for one year. I mind the one year less than the one computer limitation, but the bottom line is that this is very inexpensive protection from a very serious — and potentially very costly — problem. Sandboxie does offer a 30-day trial period; I tried it for 5 minutes and bought it.
The other thing that I dislike about the Internet is that whenever I look for something online, I am leaving a trail for spammers; there is a lack of privacy. So I have started using Startpage, for my searches.
Startpage is free. Basically it is an overlay to Google. Instead of directly running a search through Google, you run it from Startpage. Information about Startpage is available here.
All searches and website accesses done via Startpage are done from Startpage’s servers, so it is Startpage’s IP address that is seen, not yours. And cookies are downloaded to Startpage’s proxy servers, not to your computer.
This is an excellent free service. Check it out.
Richard Adin, An American Editor