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Ransomware-Video5-Most Popular Internet Scams

You’ve heard me talk about it a few times in this course but let’s have a closer look at what this entails.  Picture this: You’ve spent the last few weeks or months working on a high profile project for work and now that you’re finally done, you’re ready to send it in for review. You get ready to copy your work to a usb thumb drive and this strange pop-up appears on your screen. “Unfortunately, the files on this computer have been encrypted. You have 24 hours to submit a payment of $500 to receive the encryption key, otherwise the price will go up every hour after that. After 72 hours, your files will be permanently destroyed.” Payment must be done in bitcoin currency.

You realize that you’ve been hit with ransomware, and your last known good back up of your computer was 8 months ago. What do you do now? Unfortunately, when it comes to ransomware, once your files are encrypted, there’s not much you can do besides cut your losses or pay up. Even the FBI says there’s no way out of it and to just pay the ransom. And even if you do pay up, there’s still a chance you won’t get your files back, so you’re out the files and your cash.

Here’s how ransomware works. You’re essentially duped into opening an email that has a ZIP file attached and you run the program inside of it. Or maybe you opened an infected Word or excel document with macros enabled, or you clicked on an infected popup advertisement or you visit an infected website. Point is, you never know where it can come from, you just need to be ready.

I’m sure you’ve seen this advertisement where you’re surfing the web and there’s an ad that says “hey your computer is running slow, optimize it now with this anti-virus software”. You think to yourself, boy I sure could use a speed boost on my computer and you download in and install it. Instead of just trying to trick you into buying fake antivirus software, the bad guys hold your computer hostage and attempt to extort a ransom payment.

The criminals often ask for a nominal payment, figuring you’ll be more likely to pay to avoid the hassle and heartache of dealing with the virus. They may ask for as little as $500 to be paid with an untraceable currency called bitcoin but this extorsion number can be much higher these days, like $2900. This scam earned the criminals over a billion dollars. Since there’s not much options to get out of it once you’re hit, here’s a few tips to protect yourself from ransomware

#1 back up your data on a daily basis and then test to make sure your back up is working. If you back up your files to an external hard drive or to an online cloud backup service, you’ll diminish the chances of you losing all your data. Also, it’s very important to enable encryption on your back as well. Here’s a problem you’ll face with an attached USB external drive. Ransomware is designed to attack the files on your PC and all devices connected to it.

So if you’re at work connected to the network, or have your external USB drive plugged in, the ransomware will go after all of it. Which means your backups will be lost too. Make sure the external drive is disconnected once the backup is done. Another idea is to install a network hard drive which is at another location where your pc has to login to it and copy the data over, and disconnects on it’s own after the copy. It’s a great option if you have an unlimited data plan, this way if you do get hit, you can just format your pc, reinstall the OS and restore your data like nothing happened.

2) Use reputable antivirus software and a firewall like I spoke about this in a previous video. The first step in ransomware prevention is to invest in awesome cybersecurity and a course like this, . Look for an anti-virus with active monitoring, anti-malware and anti-ransomware capabilities that are specifically designed to stop these threats

3) Enable your popup blocker like we covered in the securing your browser video. Popups are a prime tactic used by the bad guys. If a popup appears, try to click on the X in the right-hand corner. Usually the buttons within a popup have been reprogrammed by the criminals, so do not click on them.

4) Alert authorities because Ransomware is a serious form of extortion. The problem is, Local law enforcement aren’t equipped to deal with this so you might feel it’s a waste of time, but I’m sure the  FBI would want to know about it so they can add it to their list.

5) Just use good judgement. Stop clicking on every link in all your joke mail that your friends send you. If you do get hit with this virus, unplug your internet right away to avoid personal data being sent to the bad guys. Keep in mind that the bad guys might be promoting their fake anti-virus to encrypt you again.

6) (- work with your family IT guy or repair shop). IT is a very complex field and not 1 person can know it all. So if this overwhelming for you, just work with your family IT guy or repair shop and get this done quickly.

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