FBI Warns That Nasty ‘Ransomware’ Is Spreading

A type of malicious software has been used to steal at least $18 million from victims since April 2014. Here’s how to protect yourself.

Ransomware is continuing to spread worldwide, according to data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

This type of malicious software, or malware, blocks access to a computer system until a ransom is paid.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, states in a public service announcement issued this week that a ransomware named “CryptoWall” and its variations are “the most current and significant ransomware threat targeting U.S. individuals and businesses.”

In August 2014, after analyzing CryptoWall, researchers on Dell’s SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit called it “the largest and most destructive ransomware threat on the Internet” at the time and said they expected the threat to grow.

Since April 2014, the IC3 has received 992 CryptoWall-related complaints, with victims reporting losses totaling more than $18 million.

The ransom fee is usually between $200 and $10,000, according to IC3. Many victims also end up paying associated costs like those for legal services, IT services and credit monitoring.

To best protect yourself from ransomware scams, the IC3 recommends that you:

  • Always use antivirus software and a firewall. Use software from reputable companies and keep it up to date using automatic updates.
  • Enable pop-up blockers. Pop-ups are regularly used by criminals to spread malicious software.
  • Always back up your computer. If you maintain offline copies of your data, ransomware scams will have a limited impact on you because you will have backup copies of the data.
  • Be skeptical. Don’t click on any emails or attachments you don’t recognize, and avoid suspicious websites altogether. The Tech Republic reported last fall that CryptoWall usually spreads through email as an attachment, and through infected websites.

If you receive a ransomware pop-up or a message alerting you to an infection, immediately disconnect from the Internet to avoid any additional infections or data losses.

Then alert your local law enforcement personnel and file a complaint at www.IC3.gov.

Have you been a victim of ransomware? Let us know below or on Facebook.

Stacy Johnson

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