Could your computer be held for ransom? Ransomware On The Rise

Your computer may not be physically held for ransom, but you may find that the data, information and use of it may be, through a threat called “ransomware.”  This type of threat and hoax is on the rise as reported by many popular antivirus companies like Kaspersky, Trend, and Symantec.  What is ransomware and how does it work?

Ransomware is a Trojan malware similar to a virus that infects your computer. But instead of cleaning up the mess yourself or using a source like Geek Squad, Ransomware actually infects your computer, steals information, disables hard drives and then demands money to restore the computer to you.  There are several different versions of this type of scam:

Kaspersky offers this version to look out for:

Attention!!! All your personal files (photo, documents, texts, databases, certificates, and video) have been encrypted by a very strong cypher RSA-1024. The original files were deleted. You can check – just look for files in all folders. There is no possibility to decrypt these files without a special decrypt program! Nobody can help you – even don’t try to find another method or tell anybody. Also after XX number of days all encrypted files will be completely deleted and you will have no chance to get it back.

We can help to solve this task for 125$ via ukash/psc pre-paid cards. And remember, any harmful or bad words to our side will be reason for ignoring your message and nothing will be done. For details you have to send your requests on this email (attach to message a full serial key shown below in this ‘ how to..’ file on desktop.

Or you may see something like this one that “spoofs” your Windows activation screen

This copy of Windows is locked. You may be a victim of a fraud or there may be an internal system error. To continue using Windows you should complete activation,” a message displayed on the rogue screen reads.

You attempt to do the instructions provided on screen, which then directs you to make a telephone call that is supposedly free of “charge.”   Making your call actually pays your “kidnapper” by a method known as short stopping where expensive phone calls are re-routed through cheaper countries.   In most every case the code is the same according to F-Secure, so save yourself some money and be aware of this code before you do anything else, 1351236.

The malware tends to be more likely to infect your computer through the use of pornographic websites and free downloads.  In one case, Russian cyber crooks managed to earn almost $30,000 in just five weeks after infecting the computers of approximately 2500 people who visited a porn site.  Trend Micro shares how it exposed the scam here.

Some of this type of malware is easy on technology but heavy on psychology.  Instead of truly infecting the computer, they actually may just be “resting” there, but they have you convinced that your computer is experiencing a loss of data and the operating system will be irreparable.  Some even use a pornographic image on the screen to increase your fear level.

Still other types of ransomware are found on many “free” download sites that offer to help you with your computer problems if you simply download this software.  You are then told that there are numerous problems in your computer, all of which can be fixed for the low, low amount of $225.00.

Many antivirus programs are designed to help you avoid this type of extortion, however industry leaders also recommend that you regularly back up your data, surf cautiously, download only from reputable trusted websites and do not open email attachments unless you know what it is and who it is from.