Ransomware – The Newest Digital Threat and How to Avoid it
We’ve all seen movies where someone gets kidnapped and then the loved ones of the victim have to pay a ransom to get that person back. This contrived storyline makes for exciting stories, and often mirrors similar situations that happen in real life. But these days scammers don’t have to kidnap someone in order to make money; they have created new, dangerous software that allows them to “kidnap” files on your computer and hold them for ransom.
Ransomware is a new type of malware that can infect your computer. It then encrypts files on your hard drive. That is nothing new, as viruses have been doing this for a long time. However, ransomware takes things a step further. This malicious code allows criminals to infect computers via shady websites, programs or even email attachments, and then the people who got your computer infected contact you to demand money to unencrypt the files.
Here is an example of how people find out they have been victimized by ransomware: A person can be on the web doing their day-to-day browsing, when they get a pop up message, email or other message that directs them to click on something. Once that happens, the ransomware begins to infect the hard drive. Each file is then encrypted. People often get messages in place of their files that explain that they must pay a ransom if they want to get the files back. The criminals provide a link where payment can be made online, and then – if the victim is lucky – he or she gets a file with a secure key to unlock the files.
There is not much than can be done once this happens other than to pay the ransom or completely wipe out the infected hard drive and write off the files as a loss. Most anti-malware programs are not capable of providing any way of recovering files once a piece of ransomware gets installed.
Every month, more people are becoming victims to these types of file kidnappings. Ransoms can run between a few hundred dollars and up to ten thousand bucks. The criminals often demand that payments are made via Bitcoin to make the whole process even more confusing for the average person. One of the most notable ransomware cases was that of CryptoWall. It winded up costing people $18 million from 2014 to the summer of 2015. The FBI says that this problem is going to get worse in the future.
You can take steps to protect yourself from becoming a victim. A program from Blue Ridge Network, called AppGuard, is designed to prevent the ransomware from ever making it to your computer’s hard drive in the first place. The company behind this piece of software has teamed up with AOL and other large businesses to provide the best anti-malware solution currently available.
The CEO of Blue Ridge Networks John Higginbotham said that there are currently “5 new types of malware every second hitting the marketplace” and that his company’s software has the capability to “essentially prevent breaches – call it instant response without detection – for any of these forms of new malware.”
Be alert when you are online. Keep your software patched and up to date. Be wary of any email messages that prompt you to click on links or to download attachments. And avoid websites that promise to provide you with unsolicited information or data about searches you have done online in the recent past. You might also want to look into installing AppGuard on your computer to get the highest level of protection from ransomware and other types of malware.