Ransom ware is a form of malware that gives criminals the ability to lock a computer from a remote location – then displays a pop-up window informing the owner that it will not be unlocked until a sum of money is paid. In some cases, the only usable part of the computer is the number keypad to enter a PIN to enable payment to the criminals. The best-known variety of ransom ware in recent times is called Crypto Locker.
An additional twist is that an accusation of illegal activity or a pornographic image appears on the locked screen, making it more difficult for some users to seek help from anybody else, and simply resort to paying the ransom.
• For most people, we recommend an all-in-one internet security package as adequate.
• Exercise caution about opening attachments or clicking on links in emails, and visiting unfamiliar websites.
Your computer could be infected by ransom ware such as Crypto Locker when you inadvertently:
• Open a malicious attachment in an email.
• Click on a malicious link in an email, instant message, social networking site or other website.
• Visit a corrupt website – often these are of a pornographic nature.
• Open infected files from web-based digital file delivery companies (for example Hightail – formerly called YouSendIt, and Dropbox).
• Open corrupt macros in application documents (word processing, spreadsheets etc).
• Connect corrupt USB connected devices (e.g. memory sticks, external hard drives, MP3 players).
• Insert corrupt CDs/DVDs into your computer.
Avoiding Ransom ware
• Do not reply to, or click on links contained in, unsolicited or spam emails from companies or individuals you do not recognise.
• Visit only websites you know to be reputable.
• Ensure you have effective and updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running before you go online.
• Regularly back up all your data, including to a USB-connected device stored remotely from your computer. This is because some ransomware can also infect your cloud-based storage.