“Ransom” may elicit a vision of ships, pirates, and hostages. And while ransoms do take place in dangerous parts of the world, certain forms of ransoms are a lot closer to home. We’re talking about ransomware, malware that holds your computer for ransom and demands some amount of money, to be paid to “unlock” it.
How Ransomware Works
There are two primary types of ransomware: Lock screen ransomware and encryption ransomware. Lock screen ransomware displays a full screen image or webpage on your monitor, while encryption ransomware encrypts all the data on your computer. Both forms of ransomware deny access to the data on your computer and may leave you to feel helpless enough to pay the ransom amount. However, unlike the pirates, paying this ransom does not guarantee the criminals will release your computer.
So, how does a computer gets infected with ransomware? Ransomware, like most other malware, can come from drive-by-download, such as opening a malicious email attachment, clicking on a deceptive pop-up, or simply by visiting a compromised website. It can also come from exploiting vulnerabilities in web browsers, operating systems, and commonly-used software and programs such as Adobe Reader and Java.
(Example of the Fake FBI Ransomware)
How to Combat Ransomware
Protecting your computer from ransomware involves the same measures you would take to protect your computer from any other malware. Here are a few precautionary steps to fend off not only ransomware but malware in general.
• Make sure your computer has a two-way firewall and antivirus at minimum, and that these protections are up-to-date and active.
• Keep your operating system, web browsers, and other software up-to-date.
• Don’t click on random links or download random files from peer-to-peer networks, spam email messages, or suspicious websites.
• Beware of fake download pages, such as ones masquerading as an Adobe Flash Player update page. If you need to update your software, go directly to the official site.
• Regularly back up your computer to an external hard drive or cloud storage