What is Ransomware?

Ransomware refers to a variety of viruses that will prevent you from accessing files on your own computer. Ransomware is constantly evolving and several new versions of the infections are consistently being reported. Advances in technology have given ransomware a fail-proof locking system. In many cases, the only way to gain access to your computer’s files is to pay the hacker a “ransom”.

How does ransomware work?

There are a number of ways in which a ransomware virus can infect your computer. These computer viruses can be installed by clicking on a link in an email, from an instant message and even from simply visiting a website. Once the virus has been opened, your screen will “lock” immediately, preventing access to your files.

A common ploy is to manufacture a pop-up window or a similar webpage indicating that you have been accused of illegal activity and are being fined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). A link will be offered that permits payment, which can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How can you protect yourself?

It is possible to reduce the chance that you are a victim of ransomware. We recommend following these simple steps:

  • Keep your security software up-to-date.
  • Make sure that your firewall is always enabled.
  • Be diligent about the emails you open. If something appears suspicious, verify the sender’s authenticity before you open it.
  • Make a backup of all your files and keep them on an external storage device. However, ransomware can still use wi-fi to infect storage linked to your computer, so simply using the cloud as secondary storage will not keep you safe.
  • Be suspicious of online advertisements. Hackers often use these as a gateway to your computer. Make sure your ad blocking software is turned on and updated to prevent malicious pop-ups.
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