The Department of Homeland Security has issued a new warning about the danger of ransomware. I have previously warned you about this type of scam on December 3, 2012 and on January 19, 2013. Ransomware scams occur when you find that you are unable to use your computer and you receive an email message or a notice on your screen indicating that your use of your computer has been frozen due to illegal activity being detected on your computer. A common variation of this scam being done now purports to be from the Department of Homeland Security and its National Cyber Security Division. You are told that you need to pay a fine before your computer will be unfrozen and you have access to it again. In fact, the freezing of your computer has not been done by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI or any other governmental agency. It was done by a scammer who through your unwitting downloading of malware that happened when you unknowingly went to tainted website or downloaded the malware when clicking on a link or an attachment in an email that contained the malware. It is for this reason, that I am always reminding you never to click on links and download attachments unless you are absolutely positive that they are legitimate.
The best way to deal with ransomware is to avoid it in the first place. Maintain a good firewall on your computer and install and maintain up-to-date security software. Also, never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate. Even if the link or download is in an email or a Facebook posting that appears to come from a friend of yours, their account may have been hacked and the communication may be from a scammer. Never pay a ransom to regain control of your computer. There is no guarantee that the criminal who froze your computer will let you off the hook. Rather, have a computer professional go through your computer to find the source of the problem and resolve it. It is also important to remember that no legitimate agency will freeze your computer and make you pay a fine to unfreeze it.
Finally, if you are a victim of ransomware, here is a link to Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center with links and instructions for removing ransomware infections from your computer: http://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/shared/ransomware.aspx#recover