Ransomware on the Rise
FBI and Partners Working to Combat This Cyber Threat
Your computer screen freezes with a pop-up message--supposedly from the FBI or another federal agency--saying that because you violated some sort of federal law your computer will remain locked until you pay a fine. Or you get a pop-up message telling you that your personal files have been encrypted and you have to pay to get the key needed decrypt them. These scenarios are examples of ransomware scams, which involve a type of malware that infects computers and restricts users' access to their files or threatens the permanent destruction of their information unless a ransom--anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars--is paid.
Ransomware doesn't just impact home computers. Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations can and have become infected with it as well, resulting in the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, a disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and/or potential harm to an organization's reputation. Ransomware has been around for several years, but there's been a definite uptick lately in its use by cyber criminals. And the FBI, along with public and private sector partners, is targeting these offenders and their scams.
Protect Your Computer from Ransomware
- Make sure you have updated antivirus software on your computer.
- Enable automated patches for your operating system and web browser.
- Have strong passwords, and don't use the same passwords for everything.
- Use a pop-up blocker.
- Only download software--especially free software--from sites you know and trust (malware can also come in downloadable games, file-sharing programs, and customized toolbars).
- Don't open attachments in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited e-mail, even if you think it looks safe. Instead, close out the e-mail and go to the organization's website directly.
- Use the same precautions on your mobile phone as you would on your computer when using the Internet.
- To prevent the loss of essential files due to a ransomware infection, it's recommended that individuals and businesses always conduct regular system back-ups and store the backed-up data offline.