It’s fall, the season of Halloween, and Slate recently ran a truly terrifying story. It focused on the rise of “ransomware,” a new form of malware that is truly creepy, and, unfortunately, very efficient. According to Slate, this is how this specific hack works: You either click on an infected web page or a link in an email message and your computer screen turns gray. A browser window then appears complete with the FBI logo in its top left corner. Under that is a live webcam feed with a picture of a face, yours.
That isn’t even the scariest part. A message will then appear on your screen telling you that you have violated copyright laws and have two choices. One, pay a fine within 48 to 72 hours, or two, go to prison for as much as three years. You are also told that if you do not pay your computer will be locked indefinitely.
A real threat
The part about your violation is a scam, and it is just a way for these thieves to make money. Nevertheless, there is one piece of this that is very harmful. You could be locked out of your computer if you don’t pay says a senior security advisor quoted by Slate. So would it be smarter to just pay their demands? Which is usually in the $100 range. Even if you did pay, there is no telling whether or not they will unlock your computer. They may just demand more money.
So how do you protect yourself? The same way you always have, with up-to-date antivirus software. Also, pay attention to what sites you visit and don’t click on links in emails from people you don’t know.
However, if you do become a victim of ransomware you will most likely need to speak to a security expert to unlock your computer. An alternative is to contact the real FBI here www.ic3.gov and file a complaint.