A particularly alarming form of malware continues to impact businesses and consumers. “Ransomware” is a harmful software that restricts access to an infected computer and requests that the victim pay ransom in order to regain control of the system, files or accounts. The fraudster perpetrating the ransomware may even monitor the victim’s activity for a period prior to deploying the scam so that they can display actual personal or financial information to scare the victim into paying the ransom.
Computers are generally infected with the ransomware when the victim receives a phony email claiming to be from a government agency, retailer, shipping or anti-virus company. The email is used to trick the recipient into clicking a link or file, which downloads the malware onto their computer. Other variations of this scam lure the victim to a disreputable website by promising free or highly discounted goods, such as iPads or other electronic devices.
Good “cyber hygiene” is the best way to prevent ransomware. Always be sure to download the latest updates for your operating system and software and that you are running a reputable anti-virus program. Choose strong passwords and update them regularly – and if a suspicious email or pop-up, do not click any links or images, open attachments or provide your personal information.
If you are a victim of ransomware, take steps to eradicate the malware by running virus removal tools or by contacting a computer security professional. Notify us immediately if you have provided your personal financial information in response to a scam so that we can assist you with protecting your accounts.
Visit our Financial Education Center to learn more about ransomware and how you can protect yourself.