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"Ransomware on the Rise"

"Ransomware on the Rise - FBI and Partners Working to Combat This Cyber Threat"

by Jeroen Barendse

What is Ransomware?:

Ransomware refers to a type of malware that locks down a users computer and then asks the user to pay a ransom in order to unlock the computer.  

How it works:

An alarming looking message pops-up, usually claiming to be from the FBI or another federal agency.  The message informs users that they have violated a federal law and their computer will remain locked until they pay up.  Traditionally users were asked to pay with pre-paid cards to unlock their computers, but according to the FBI, there are increasing number of instances that require the user to pay with Bitcoin.  Bitcoin is a virtual currency that attracts criminals due to its anonimity.  Often, even if a user pays the ransom the malicious person(s) will just increase the ransom to extort more money.  The two most alarming ransomware iterations so far are called "CryptoLocker" and "CryptoWall."

How to protect yourself at home:

  • 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.

To read the full article from the FBI go to fbi.gov

This image, taken from wctechblog.com, shows an example of what a ransomware pop-up might look like.

cryptolocker