Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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Federal Agencies Warn of New "Ransomware"

Federal agencies on Tuesday warned to consumers of a new computer malware that can take hold of personal files and literally hold them for ransom.

The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said that the malware, “Cryptolocker,” encrypts your personal documents, photos, and other files. You can’t get it back unless you pay a fee of about $300 and the clock is ticking until it’s gone for good. And there’s no other way to unlock your files. Even if you pay up, there’s no guarantee that the criminals will keep their end of the deal.

The malware is usually spread by “drive-by” downloads (an automatic download without clicking a link, but just by visiting a booby-trapped website) or by email. It may appear to be a routine email from a legitimate company, like a shipping notice from a tracking company. But if you click on the hyperlink in the email, the malware encrypts everything in your hard drive and in your shared folders. After the Cryptolocker makes your files inaccessible to you, you’ll get a ransom note demanding payment through Bitcoin or some other anonymous payment method.

Computer security experts recommend backing up your files often to minimize the potential damage from Cryptolocker and other malware. And keep in mind that many automated and cloud-based services are synchronized, so that if a malicious program encrypts your original, your backup will be locked up too. It’s better to use an external device to backup your files, and disconnect it when not actively backing up files.

The FTC also recommends that you use up-to-date security software from well-known providers, and set it to update automatically to protect against the latest threats. Don’t respond to pop-ups or emails that claim to have scanned your computer and found a threat - this is a common way for scammers to con you into buying worthless software or steal information from your computer. And if you suspect a scam, report it to the FTC.

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Sunday, 16 June 2024

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