We hear more and more about ransomware these days. It is a class of malware that takes a computer or mobile device and/or its data hostage and demands payment to free it. It operates by encrypting the files and holding the decryption key until the victim pays money.

Some ways a computer or mobile device can be infected:

  • Selecting a link in an email or a message in a social network
  • By a criminal enterprise that has a “botnet” (a network of infected computers under the control of a criminal “botmaster”) that is paid to install the ransomware on the victim computers
  • From a malicious website, especially those offering streaming media

How to guard against it.

  • Don’t click links in emails, even those that seem to come from trusted family and friends
  • Have up to date anti-virus and anti-spyware. I use Webroot SecureAnywhere, which does a great job of fighting malware and warning about compromised websites
  • Back up your data to an external hard drive or flash drive and leave it unconnected except when backing up
  • Use only secure passwords

What else to do? The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) suggests that if you are victimized:

  • File a complaint with IC3
  • Keep operating systems and antivirus and antispyware updated.

If infected, contact a reliable computer consultant to remove the infection.

(Note: I have no connection with Webroot, and do not gain personally or financially from them.)