It would be hard pressed to substantiate an argument that vocalized the important advancements that “Information Technology” has brought to the world in the last thirty years. BUT…there is a “ying” and a “yang”. There is a “good” and a “bad”. There is a dark side…
“Ransomware” is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. So, here’s an example. Your computer screen freezes with a pop-up message—supposedly from the FBI or another federal agency—saying that because you violated some sort of federal law your computer will remain locked until you pay a fine. Or you get a pop-up message telling you that your personal files have been encrypted and you have to pay to get the key needed decrypt them.
Ransomware has been around for years. But recent statements from the FBI have indicated that with the steady sophistication of “cybercriminals”, Ransomware is on the rise. And it doesn’t just affect home computers. Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations can and have become infected with it as well, resulting in the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, a disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and/or potential harm to an organization’s reputation.
How can we protect ourselves? Well, the obvious answer is by making sure your antivirus software is updated. This is imperative. But there are other tips to utilize as well...
- Enable automated patches for your operating system and your web browser.
- Have strong passwords, and don’t use the same password for everything.
- Use a pop-up blocker.
- Only download software-especially “free” software-from sites you know and trust. (Malware can also come in downloadable games. File sharing programs, and customized toolbars).
- Don’t open attachments in unsolicited emails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited email, even if you think it looks safe. Instead, close the email and go to the organization’s website directly.
- Use the same precautions on your mobile phone as you would on your computer when using the Internet.
- To prevent the loss of essential files due to a Ransomware infection, it’s recommended that individuals and businesses always conduct regular system back-ups and store the backed-up data offline.
The FBI—along with its federal, international, and private sector partners—will continue to combat ransomware and other cyber threats. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a ransomware scheme or other cyber fraud activity, please report it to the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
And of course, for more information on prevention and protection, please contact us today!