Major corporations, government agencies, healthcare organizations, small businesses and private individuals are all being targeted by ransomware. The law enforcement and cybersecurity communities believe many of the cybercriminals behind these attacks are connected to organized crime, anti-US entities or even terrorist groups. It is an ongoing challenge to identify hackers and bring them to justice.
Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts the data on your computer and makes your computer inoperable until a “ransom” is paid to the hackers. Some versions of ransomware not only lock up your computer and data, but also make
copies of data that hackers can harvest and sell.
Payment demanded by the hackers is usually in the form of bitcoins (cryptocurrency). Some low-level hackers may even demand payment in the form of gift cards. Tracing the flow of the ransom is tedious, time-consuming and oftentimes, futile.
A computer gets infected with ransomware mainly due to user error, by clicking on a malicious link in an email or a message while using social media. Your computer can also get contaminated by opening an “infected” attachment in your email — a document, video or sound file.
■ Be careful what you click on.
■ Back up your data. Backing up the entire hard drive is best. Use an external hard drive (not a USB thumb drive) that has its own power source and is connected with a USB cable.
■ Use a cloud service. This option may come with a fee depending on the size of the backup file.
■ Update your computer’s operating system and security software with the most current patches.
■ Install security software and make sure it is running before checking email or going online.
■ Be very suspicious when clicking on links when surfing the Web, those in your emails and when opening attachments. This also applies to messages from “friends” when using social media.
What to do if your computer becomes infected.
■ Turn off your computer and unplug it.
■ Contact a computer repair service. Explain that your computer has been infected but you have a backup they can use to restore your data.
■ Contact law enforcement and report the incident. Whether they may be able to open an investigation and track down the hackers will depend on what information you can provide them and their available resources. (Law enforcement will not restore your data. Their job is to investigate.)
The bottom line is the burden of keeping yourself safe is using safe computing habits and being wary of what you click on.
Contact me with questions about online security:
Christopher Duque | firstname.lastname@example.org