Computers kidnapped for ransom

Laptop

If someone kidnapped your computer, would you pay a ransom to get it back? Some victims have done that, but the culprits didn’t make good on their promise.

The U.S. Computer Emergency Team, part of the Dept. of Homeland Security, recently issued a warning to the public about CryptoLocker Ransomware Infections.

You get the infection when you click on a link in what the release described as “fake emails designed to mimic the look of legitimate businesses and through phony FedEx and UPS tracking notices.”

Once you’ve hit the link, your computer becomes hostage because the malware encrypts your files. The criminals then demand a ransom. Paying it within the specified time frame is the only way you’ll get your files back—the kidnappers send you a key for you to retrieve or to decrypt your  encrypted files. The ransom usually demands payment via a third party like Bitcoin.

Some victims told the FBI they paid the ransom but never got the decryption key they were promised.

There are some ways the CET suggests to protect yourself, and additional links are included on the government website:

  •  Conduct routine backups of important files, keeping the backups stored offline.
  •  Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software.
  • Keep your operating system and software up-to-date with the latest patches.
  • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email.
  • Use caution when opening email attachments.
  • Follow safe practices when browsing the web.

DHS is asking consumers who have been affected by the CryptoLocker Ransomware to report it at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

(Filed by Kay B. Day/Dec. 19, 2013)

About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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