It’s not exactly like what you see in the movies. You won’t come home to find your adorable computer missing with a ransom note taped to your desk instead. Although it’s 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 ransom 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 ransom schemes the hoax uses fear to extort fees from victims who may or may not have actually lost any information from their computers.
What is ransomware?
Ransomware is another form of a Trojan malware that infects your computer with a virus. Many computer users can clean up viruses with software or help from tech professionals like the Geek Squad but ransomware does more than just make a mess. Ransomware:
-infects your computer
-steals your information
-disables your hard drive
-demands more to restore your computer to you
Trend, Symantec, F-Secure and Kasperky, antivirus experts say these hoaxes are on the rise.
According to ComputerWorld, one such ransomware hoax involves a message that Windows is “locked” and must be “reactivated.” Computer operators are told that they can reactivate online (this doesn’t work) or with a phone call. Guess what? The scammers pretend to be Microsoft and assure callers that the call is free while you’re left on hold.
“The numbers are operated by rogue operators and lead to [countries with] very expensive phone rates, like the Dominican Republic or Somalia,” Mikko Hypponen, the chief research officer of Helsinki-based F-Secure says and he adds, “But the numbers actually end up in much cheaper countries. They charge you the full price…. That’s how they make money.”
Another type of computer ransom uses strong psychological scare tactics. Kapersky says to watch out for messages like this one:
Attention!!! All your personal files (photo, documents, texts, databases, certificates, and video) have been encrypted by a very strong cypher RSA-1024. The original files were deleted. You can check – just look for files in all folders. There is no possibility to decrypt these files without a special decrypt program! Nobody can help you – even don’t try to find another method or tell anybody. Also after n days all encrypted files will be completely deleted and you will have no chance to get it back.
We can help to solve this task for 125$ via ukash/psc pre-paid cards. And remember, any harmful or bad words to our side will be reason for ignoring your message and nothing will be done. For details you have to send your requests on this email (attach to message a full serial key shown below in this ‘ how to..’ file on desktop.”
What computer activities make you most vulnerable to malware and ransomware?
According to industry experts say pornographic sites are one of the biggest risks. In fact, Russian cyber crooks bilked $30,000 in just a few weeks after infecting the computers of almost 2500 people who visited a porno site. Free download sites and sites that promise to diagnose or fix your computer also raise your risk. Experts say you’re likely to be told your computer has a variety of problems, all of which they can fix for a low price like $225.00 if you act today.
How can you protect yourself from Ransomware?
-Use an anti-virus software and keep it updated. Keeping it update if key.
-Regularly back up your computer data. Easy to do and later is not better than never if you hit with ransomware.
-Be weary of free downloads unless they are from a major, reputable site. Free isn’t worth it you lose your personal information. Check reviews of free download sites.
-Don’t open e-mails from unknowns and never click links or download attachments. Even if or especially if they say things like “your package cant’ be delivered” or “your account has been breached.”
-Contact institutions directly through previously used online or off line contacts if you have questions. Remember banks won’t ask you for passwords or account numbers online.
Remember, when it comes to computers, thieves aren’t only lurking around on the outside. Sometimes it’s an inside job.