Ernie from Elmyra, NY writes:
Can you elaborate on this ‘Ransomware’ that has been in the news lately and what, if anything, we can do to insure we don’t have a problem with it?
Sure Ernie. Ransomware refer to malware that locks your computer and demands a certain amount of cash to free it up. Of course, once these crooks get your money, it’s extremely unlikely that they are going to unlock your computer.
Sometimes these fraudsters impersonate government agencies. They’ll say that illegal material was discovered on your computer and you must pay a fine to unlock it and avoid jail time.
Some forms of Ransomware encrypt all of the files on your computer. There have been several cases lately of attackers seizing control of the automation software of small radio stations that were still running XP.
They were able to knock these stations off the air by holding all of their audio files hostage.
How do you avoid these attacks? Have a good security program in place and make sure you keep it updated. If you are using a Windows XP machine, don’t go online with it. Crooks are specifically targeting XP users because they know the system is unprotected.
As always, be very cautious about what you download. Stay away from sites that offer pirated movies or TV shows. If there’s a brand new movie out in the theaters and you’re able to watch it on a site for free or download it, it’s almost always pirated. And almost all pirate sites will include malware with your download. The same is true for pirated music. No one should be surprised that the person helping you steal would be glad to steal from you.
Watch out for spoof e-mails that purport to be from banks or government agencies. They’ll try lure you into clicking on links that take you to websites loaded with malware. If you aren’t sure if a message is legitimate contact your bank or the government agency mentioned to confirm if it’s real.
If you get ransomware on your computer, there are some steps you can try:
If your Windows computer is hijacked by ransomware, Microsoft suggests two ways to remove the infection. The first way is to restart your computer in safe mode and run the Microsoft Security Scanner. After completing the scan, restart your computer.
If that doesn’t work, you’ll need access to another non-infected computer that has access to the Internet. You can download a copy of Windows Defender Offline here and follow the instructions on how to create a bootable device. Then boot your infected computer from that device.
It’s a complicated process, so the best thing to do is make sure you don’t get infected in the first place.