Ransomware is a nasty malware where criminals take control of your computer and force you to pay a ransom to regain access to your data. The new twist, however, is that the criminals make it look like the government is coming after you.
The pop-up messages can be quite scary at first claiming that the FBI is investigating you for potential criminal activity on your computer. But don't worry it's all designed to scare you to cough up that bitcoin faster.
The FBI doesn't issue those types of warnings, won't encrypt your data and they surely won't demand any payment. Ransomware is on the rise again, and it can infect your computer many different ways, you may get redirected to a malicious website or accidentally click a link in a phishing email. Once your data is locked, even if you pay the ransom there is a good chance you never see your files again.
It's not just random personal attacks. Criminals also target businesses and steal their data, hoping you'll be desperate enough to pay up to get it back.
The most important thing you can do to minimize your risk is to back up your computer. You need to have a bulletproof back plan. Luckily every computer regardless of its operating system comes with a built-in backup application, Macs have “time machine,” and Windows have “File History” built-in ready to backup your data to an external hard drive.
Here are the basics to protect your computer against ransomware and malware in general.
- Make sure your antivirus software is active and up to date.
- Backup your data to an external hard drive and use a cloud backup solution like Carbonite, iDrive and Backblaze.
- Always keep your operating system with your installed application up-to-date.
Don't panic when you see a suspicious popup claiming your computer is locked merely close the browser if you can, perform a full malware scan and reboot your computer. If you lose any data, restore it from your backups.
I hope it helps, stay safe out there.