Imagine this: you come into work one day, boot up your laptop and find a warning message on your screen. Sometimes the messages claim to be from the FBI, an international law enforcement agency, or it may accuse users of illegal activity, perhaps visiting illegal or inappropriate websites. What they all have in common is one thing: a hacker has taken over your computer and wants money before he/she will give it back. What I have just described is ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that hackers install on your computer so they can lock it from a remote location and then demand money.
Experts estimate that as many of 3% of victims actually pay the ransom, meaning that criminals are making money from the scheme. One recent ransomware scheme netted the criminals approximately $30,000 a day according to Symantec. This kind of profit for cybercriminals means that others are likely to launch similar attacks.
How should you deal with these threats? The best approach is to take some basic security precautions.
- Keep all of the software on your computer up to date. Make sure automatic updating is turned on.
- Keep your firewall turned on.
- Don’t open spam email messages or click links on suspicious websites.
- Download a good anti-virus.
- Scan all attachments or files before running or executing.
Another important item to keep in mind is that if your computer gets infected with this new ransomware, it may difficult or impossible to open your files. This is why it’s so important to constantly back-up your data. There are many ways to backup either locally or to cloud based providers. You need to be prepared for a disaster like this because you may not get a second chance to recover your data.