What is Ransomware?

Simply put this is when a cyber-thief holds your computer and its files hostage until a ransom is paid.  This is another type of malware, it will prevent you from using your PC normally, in some cases it can:

  • Prevent you from accessing Windows
  • Encrypt files so you can't use them
  • Stop certain apps from running (like your web browser)

How it works:

These assaults typically begin in the same manner as scareware (another type of malware that uses "scare" tactics to encourage you to click through and buy fake antivirus software).  You're duped into clicking on an infected popup advertisement or you visit an infected website. However, unlike scareware where they want you to buy their fake programs, instead you now have to pay money to release your computer and regain access to your files.

Protect yourself from ransomware:

As with other attacks, you can avoid ransomware.  Experts advise taking these steps to avoid attacks or protect yourself after an attack:

1.  Use a reputable antivirus software and a firewall.  Maintaining a strong firewall and keeping your security software up to date are critical.  It's important to use antivirus software from a reputable company because of all the fake software out there.

2.  Back up often.  If you back up your files to either an external hard drive or an online backup service, you diminish the threat.

3.  Enable your pop-up blocker.  Popups are a prime tactic used by the bad guys, so simply put avoid even accidentally clicking on an infected popup.

4.  Exercise caution.  Don't click on links inside emails and avoid suspicious websites.  If your PC does come under attack, use another computer to research details about the type of attack.  But be aware that the bad guys are devious enough to create fake sites, perhaps touting their own fake antivirus software or their de-encryption program.

5.  Disconnect from the Internet.  If you receive a ransomware note, disconnect from the internet so your personal data isn't transmitted back to the criminals.  Simply shut down the computer.  If you have backed up your data you can re-install the software.  If you don't feel comfortable doing this take your computer to a reputable repair shop.

6.  Alert authorities.  Ransomware is a serious form of extortion, your local FBI office will want to know about it. Depending on the situation they will be best equipped to advise you as to what to do next.