It’s not exactly like what you see in the movies. You won’t come home to find your lovely computer missing with a ransom note taped to your desktop. Although this is not a physical kidnapping or hostage situation, both malware, called ransomware by security experts, and hoaxes are taking computers hostage and demanding ransom from owners.
There are two ways these bailout schemes work. In one case, malware is used to encrypt your files and make them inaccessible to you unless you pay a fee. In other ransomware schemes, the deception uses fear to extort money from victims who may or may not have lost information from their computers.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is another form of Trojan horse malware that infects your computer with a virus. Many computer users can clean viruses with software or with the help of tech professionals like Geek Squad, but ransomware does more than just make a mess. Data hijacking:
-infects your computer
– steal your information
-disable your hard drive
-request more to restore your computer to you
Trend, Symantec, F-Secure and Kasperky antivirus experts say these scams are on the rise.
According to ComputerWorld, one such ransomware scam involves a message that Windows is “locked” and needs to be “reactivated.” Computer operators are told they can reactivate online (this doesn’t work) or with a phone call. Guess what? Scammers claim to be Microsoft and assure callers that the call is free while putting you on hold.
“Numbers are operated by rogue operators and lead to [countries with] very expensive phone rates, like the Dominican Republic or Somalia,” says Mikko Hypponen, director of research at Helsinki-based F-Secure, adding: “But the numbers actually end up in much cheaper countries. They charge you full price… That’s how they make money.”
Another type of ransomware uses strong psychological scare tactics. Kapersky says to be careful with messages like this:
Attention!!! All your personal files (photos, documents, texts, databases, certificates and videos) have been encrypted by very strong RSA-1024 encryption. The original files were removed. You can check, just look for files in all folders. There is no chance to decrypt these files without a special decryption program! No one can help you, even please don’t try to find another method or tell anyone. Also, after n days, all encrypted files will be completely deleted and you will not have a chance to recover them.
We can help solve this task for $125 via ukash/psc prepaid cards. And remember, any harmful or mean words from us will be cause to ignore your message and nothing will be done. For more information, you should send your requests to this email (attach a full serial key to the message shown below in this ‘how to…’ file on the desktop).
What computing activities make you more vulnerable to malware and ransomware?
According to industry experts, porn sites are one of the biggest risks. In fact, Russian cybercriminals swindled $30,000 in just a few weeks after infecting the computers of nearly 2,500 people who visited a porn site. Free download sites and sites that promise to diagnose or repair your computer also increase your risk. Experts say you’ll likely be told that your computer has a variety of problems, all of which can be fixed for as little as $225.00 if you act today.
How can you protect yourself from ransomware?
-Use antivirus software and keep it updated. Keep it updated if it is key.
-Make regular backups of your computer data. Easy to do and later is not better than never if you hit with ransomware.
– Be wary of free downloads unless they are from an important and reputable site. Free is not worth it if you lose your personal information. Check the reviews of free download sites.
-Do not open emails from unknown people and never click on links or download attachments. Even if, or especially if, they say things like “your package is undeliverable” or “your account has been compromised.”
-Contact institutions directly through previously used online or offline contacts if you have questions. Remember that banks will not ask you for passwords or account numbers online.
Remember, when it comes to computers, thieves don’t just lurk on the outside. Sometimes it’s an inside job.