How To Protect Yourself From Ransomware

Seeing as how it’s fall, and today is Halloween, we thought we would concentrate on something a bit scary. Ransomware is a scary, and effective, new form of malware that is on the rise. Slate recently published a story regarding this, and explains how it works. Essentially, after you click on a link in an email message or a webpage and your screen will turn gray. Then a window pops up that is seemingly from the FBI, including a logo, and a live webcam feed of you.

If that wasn’t unnerving enough, the next part is even scarier. You’ll then receive a message on your screen telling you that you have broken federal copyright laws. You are given two choices, pay a fine, or face up to three years in prison. You are then given a deadline with which to pay the fine, usually this is 48 to 72 hours. The message further threatens you by saying you’ll get locked out of your computer permanently if you do not pay.

A real threat

As expected, the criminal charges bit of this scam is fake, but the threat of coping with a completely locked computer is real, at least based on a senior security advisor quoted by Slate. That begs the question, should you simply pay the fine—usually in the $100 range—and hope that the hackers behind this scam unlock your computer? Perhaps not, according to the Slate story. After all, once these criminals have your money, what motivation do they have to actually unlock your computer? And how do you know that they won’t target your computer again in the future even after you pay up?

True protection

McAfee, the well-known maker of antivirus software, noted that it recorded more than 120,000 new examples of ransomware attacks in the second quarter of 2012. How to protect yourself? Exactly the same way you protect yourself from any type of malicious code. Be sure that you have antivirus software installed on your computer. Just as significantly, don’t visit dubious websites, illegally download files to your computer, or click on strange links in email addresses.

However, if you do become a victim of ransomware you will most likely need to talk to a security expert to unlock your computer. Another option is to contact the real FBI here and file a complaint.


Posted on: 10.31.12