The
latest spin on a ransom note isn’t composed of letters clipped out of a
newspaper. Increasingly, criminals are unleashing brash attacks on your PC and
its data through a type of malicious software called ransomware.
It’s
exasperating enough when your computer is sluggish because of a virus, but what
if the virus installs embarrassing pornography on your screen or encrypts your
data so you can’t read it? Ransomware attacks often use these tactics to demand
you pay a ransom to remove the pornography or to access your files.
Ransomware on the rise

“There’s more and more documented evidence that this is going on,” says Ori
Eisen, founder and chief innovation officer of fraud prevention company 41st
Parameter. “It’s more prevalent in the United Kingdom, which is sort of a
staging or testing ground. It’s starting there and getting more momentum.”
The
FBI recently issued an alert about the broader category of rogue ware, which
include ransomware and fake antivirus scareware scams. According to the FBI,
criminals are netting an estimated $150 million a year through these scams.
“Ransomware is actually scarier” than the scareware scams, says Robert
Siciliano, a Boston-based identity theft expert. “There’s nothing worse in the
field of technology than having a criminal in control of your network. When a
ransomware attack occurs, it can easily elevate from a potential data loss to
potential identity theft to a data breach in the form of extortion.”

How ransomware works

These aggressive assaults begin in a similar manner to scare ware. You’re duped
into clicking on an infected popup advertisement or you visit an infected
website. However, instead of just trying to trick you into buying fake
antivirus software, the bad guys hold your computer hostage and attempt to
extort payment.
In
some instances, ads for pornographic websites appear on your screen each time
you try to click on a Web page. The ads cover a portion of the page you’re trying
to view. “Just imagine you’re sitting at work and that happens to you,” says
Eisen. One ransomware attack puts time pressure on the victim, stating that a
piece of your data will be destroyed every 30 minutes if you don’t pay up.
Another attack attempts to force you to purchase a program to de-encrypt your
data.
The
criminals often ask for a nominal payment, figuring you’ll be more likely to
pay to avoid the hassle and heartache of dealing with the virus. They may ask
for as little as $10 to be wired through Western Union, paid through a premium
text message or sent through a form of online cash.

Protect yourself from ransomware

As with other attacks, you can work to avoid ransomware. Experts advise taking
these steps to avoid attacks or protect you after an attack:
1. Use
reputable antivirus software and a firewall:-
Maintaining
a strong firewall and keeping your security software up to date are critical.
It’s important to use antivirus software from a reputable company because of
all the fake software out there.
2. Back
up often:-
If you back up files to either an external hard
drive or to an online backup service, you diminish the threat, says Eisen. “If
you back up your information, you should not be afraid to just turn off your
computer and start over with a new install if you come under attack.” Eisen
backs up his data regularly, so every six months , he simply restores his
computer’s system to default and starts afresh. “I would highly recommend it,”
he says.
3. Enable
your popup blocker:-
Popup are a prime
tactic used by the bad guys, so simply avoid even accidentally clicking on an
infected popup. If a popup appears, click on the X in the right-hand corner.
The buttons within a popup might have been reprogrammed by the criminals, so do
not click on them.
4. Exercise
caution:-
Don’t click on links inside emails, and avoid suspicious
websites. If your PC does come under attack, use another computer to research
details about the type of attack. But be aware that the bad guys are devious
enough to create fake sites, perhaps touting their own fake antivirus software
or their de-encryption program.
5.  Disconnect
from the Internet :-
If you receive a ransomware
note, disconnect from the Internet so your personal data isn’t transmitted back
to the criminals, says Eisen. He recommends simply shutting down the computer.
If you have backed up your data, you can re-install software. If you don’t feel
comfortable doing so or you are unable to start fresh, you may need to take
your computer to a reputable repair shop, says Eisen.
6. Alert
authorities:-
Ransomware is a serious form of extortion.
“Local police are probably not equipped to deal with this,” explains Siciliano.
“However, the local FBI would want to know about it.”
Don’t be tempted to give in and pay the ransom,
warns Siciliano. “Paying them would be a mistake because they will further
extort you and most likely not release your information.” Taking precautions to
protect your information and maintaining vigilance are the best solutions to
avoid becoming a victim in the first place.
Source: Norton

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