Avoid Ransomware At All Costs

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During the past year many people I know have had their PCs infected with the form of malware that is now being called “ransomware”. But what is “ransomware”?

Ransomware is the big brother of an older type of malware known as “scareware”. When infected with “ransomware” your pc the rogue program begins to threaten to destroy your files if you don’t pay up. The “ransomware” then starts erasing your stuff if you don’t provide a large fee to some account that is provided by the “ransomware”. Other variants claim that you have child pornography on your PC and proceeds to threaten to report you unless you pay. These blackmail scams are why the name “ransomware” is used.

Both “scareware” and “ransomware” are huge problems because they use trickery and social engineering to get around anti-virus programs. They use false messages to fool people into clicking links on pop-ups. These pop-ups then trigger rogue JavaScript present on web pages that you are sent to after clicking the pop-up message. The pop-up messages can be confusing because they are specifically designed to look like a warning from your own anti-virus program. If you fall for this trick and click on the link you will bypass your anti-virus program and provide the malware permission to install. Once installed these malicious programs are very difficult to get rid of, even for experts. This is because they disable your anti-virus defenses. An example of a phony warning is shown below. Click on this and you really are infected.

Many times the only way of dealing with this sort of infection is to reformat the disk and re-install the operating system and programs. You will then need to restore your personal files from your latest backup. This can be very costly because if you do not know how to do this you will need to pay an expert.