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Ransomware And How To Avoid It

September 30, 2016

What is ransomware?

Ransomware (like the “FBI Virus”) is a form of malware that infects personal computers and computer networks, rendering them useless.

What You
Should Know

Ransomware is one of the fastest growing cybercrimes and extorts users for money.

What You
Can Do

Avoid clicking on suspicious emails or links and keep software updated.

Image of a locked screen after ransomware infects a computer to illustrate ransomware

How does ransomware work?

It restricts users’ access to their systems by either locking them out of their applications or encrypting all their data so it cannot be used. The cybercriminals behind the ransomware then demand payment to unlock the victim’s system and data. Unlike other forms of malware, with ransomware, victims are being directly contacted and extorted by the cybercriminals.

Today, the average ransom demanded by attackers has jumped to $6791

How do I get control of my computer back?

Once infected, the only way to decrypt encrypted files is with the key that was used to lock them up in the first place. This digital key is what the thieves are selling their victims. Once you pay, you get the key that will unlock your files.

How do I know if it’s happened to me?

  • You’ve seen suspicious pop-ups and your screen has become “locked”
  • You can’t access the programs and data on your computer
  • You see messages like:
    • “Your computer was used to visit websites with illegal content! To unlock your computer, you must pay a $100 fine.”
    • “All files on your computer have been encrypted! You must pay this ransom within 72 hours to regain access to your data.”
According to CNN, the FBI predicts that ransomware will soon be a billion dollar a year business.2

What are the typical costs?

Most ransom demands range from $200–$400 dollars for individuals and into the millions for corporations, schools, hospitals and other corporate and government entities.

How to prevent ransomware:

Recovery is difficult and potentially expensive as it may require the services of data recovery specialists. For that reason it’s best not get infected in the first place. To avoid ransomware, follow these same best practices for avoiding all malware:

  • Back up all of your critical information to either a cloud service provider or a drive that is not connected to your PC or home network
  • Keep your operating system and software up to date with the latest security updates
  • Keep antivirus software up to date and scan all software downloads before opening
  • Restrict other users administrative permissions to install, run or modify software applications and your computer’s settings
  • Scan USB drives and other external devices before opening any files they contain
  • Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication when possible
  • Do not open email attachments you are unsure of
  • Do not click on suspicious links in emails
Related Terms:
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