I have been warning you about the dangers of ransomware since 2012. Ransomware problems begin when you find your computer frozen and a message on your screen tells you that your computer will remain frozen until you pay a “ransom.” CryptoWall and its predecessor CryptoLocker ransomware have been used effectively by criminals for years. The most recent version of ransomware being used is called Tescrypt. Companies, government agencies and individuals have all been the targets of ransomware. In fact, a number of police departments, including the Swansea Massachusetts police department have been the victims of ransomware and actually paid the ransom. More recently, the town of Medfield, Massachusetts paid a bitcoin ransom equal to approximately $300 to a hacker who used ransomware to encrypt and lock the municipalities computer network.
Recently the computer system of the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center had its computers locked and encrypted by ransomware and this week paid a ransom of 50 bitcoins (approximately $16,664) to get back access to its computers.
As with many types of malware, you download ransomware when you click on tainted links or tainted attachments, which is why I always warn you not to click on any links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate. That is what happened in Medfield and at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. In my end of the year column for 2015 for USA Today, I predicted an upswing in ransomware. This prediction, unfortunately, has proven to be accurate. Here is a link to that column. http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2015/12/27/weisman-cybersecurity-predictions/77832588/
The best way to deal with ransomware is to avoid it in the first place. Have a good firewall, good anti-virus and good anti-malware software installed on your computer, tablet or other devices and keep the software up to date. However, remember that the security software companies are always playing catchup with hackers, so your security software will not always protect you. 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. However, make sure that when security updates are available that you download them as soon as possible. Many people become victims of older versions of ransomware because they have not updated their security software. Also, you should always back up everything on your computer in the Cloud or on a USB drive or preferably both. Finally, never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely positive that they are legitimate and the only way to do this is to confirm that they are legitimate with the real companies you think may be sending you the email before ever clicking on a link or downloading an attachment.
If you are a victim of ransomware, here are a couple of free links that may help you. The first 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. The second is to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware which will detect and remove malware such as trojans and spyware. The link is http://www.malwarebytes.org. Some types of ransomware cannot be defeated after they are installed, but it is always worth a try.