I am sure many of you are aware of the typical virus that corrupts your files, steals your information or slows your computer down to a crawl. There is a different type of virus (malware) that will hold your computer hostage. It is called Ransomware. Ransomware viruses are not new, but they are increasing.
HOW RANSOMWARE WORKS
Your computer can become infected with ransomware just like with any other virus by:
- Opening infected files.
- Going to infected websites.
- Clicking on infected links, files or pictures in emails.
Ransomware typically encrypts your files making them unusable or it will lock up your computer. The only way to get the use of your files or computer back is to send money to the person that infected your computer. Your computer is basically held hostage until you pay the ransom. How do you pay? Often there will be a message on your screen that lists a toll number to call to begin the process to restore your computer, at a cost of around $100-$400.
You can hire someone to try and remove the virus, but lately the ransomware criminals are trying to stop you from doing that. How you ask? There are times when the virus will change the background image (wallpaper) on your computer to a pornographic image. The hope is that you will be too embarrassed to call in professional help.
Other ransomware is just smoke and mirrors – a fake. Fake ransomware often can be removed just by updating your antivirus software and running a complete scan of your hard drive.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Practice Safe Computing: Be suspicious. Go to trusted websites. Be very careful when clicking on links and files in emails. Do not use illegal file sharing sites or services. Only download trusted software. Do a Google search if you are not sure about something.
Update your Operating System: Use Windows Update. Microsoft is always trying to make their products more secure. Keep your Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 operating system up to date.
Update your Browser: It does not matter which browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera) you use, keep it current. Also, take advantage of your browser’s ability to block pop-ups and control downloads.
Antivirus Software: There are some people that buy antivirus software, install it and that’s it. The software never gets updated. New viruses are created every single day. You must keep your antivirus software updated.
Firewall: You must have control over what information comes in and out of your computer. A firewall will give you that control.