I have been reporting about Ransomware to you since 2012.  Ransomware is the name for a type of malware that when downloaded on to your computer encrypts your data and restricts your ability to access your data.  The hacker who infected your computer will have a notice appear on your computer informing you that your data has been locked away and that unless you pay a ransom, usually in untraceable Bitcoins, your data will be destroyed.  Earlier this week the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center issued a new warning about a worldwide increase in the use of Ransomware including the newest variation of Ransomware malware identified as CryptoWall.   Hackers are targeting individual computer users, police department, accounting firms and businesses with Ransomware.  In many instances, after the ransom is paid, an encryption key is provided by the hacker that enables the victim to unlock the data, however in some instances, the hackers never unlock the data.  As with all malware, a key question is how does it become downloaded on to the victim’s computer and the answer is that the malware is downloaded by unwary computer users who click on infected links in emails or click on infected popups or advertisements.

TIPS

Of course, it is of critical importance to use a good firewall and not only install anti-virus and anti-malware software programs, but to keep these programs updated with the latest security updates and patches.  However, the latest incarnations of most malware is generally at least thirty days ahead of the security software companies so you can never rely on your security software and your firewall to keep you totally safe.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  Don’t click on links in emails regardless of how legitimate they may appear until you have confirmed that they are indeed legitimate.  Enable popup blockers to keep these from appearing on your screen.  Finally, no system of malware prevention is 100% effective so it is critical to backup all of your data offline in order to eliminate the danger of Ransomware.