As technology evolves, hackers invent new ways to prey on victims. The newest trend in cybercrime is ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that infects computers and restricts users’ access to files or threatens permanent destruction of their information unless the user pays a ransom of anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.
Ransomware typically comes in two forms, but always causes the device to lock and a screen to pop-up. The first type appears to come from the FBI or another federal agency. The pop-up explains that the victim has violated a federal law and that the device will remain locked until the victim pays a fine. The second type of ransomware explains that the files on the device have been encrypted and will be lost forever unless the user pays a ransom to unlock them.
According to the FBI, ransom fees are typically between $200 and $10,000. Since April 2014, victims have paid $18 million in fees.
The most typical methods of infection are through an unsolicited email attachment or clicking on a fraudulent link from a banking institution. Similar to other viruses, your computer can also become infected from peer sharing networks or from viruses posing as system updates.
These viruses do not just impact personal computers. Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations can and have become infected, resulting in the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, a disruption to regular operations, financial losses to restore systems and files, and/or potential harm to an organization’s reputation.
Unfortunately, once your computer becomes infected there is nothing you can do. Ransomware hunts for a wide range of file types to encrypt – and once it’s done, it displays a demand explaining how to transfer the cash to have the files decrypted.
Here are ways to protect your devices:
- Always have up-to-date anti-virus software installed on your computer or device.
- Avoid clicking on anything from anyone you don’t know.
- Run a pop-up blocker on your browser.
- Regularly backup important files.