A disturbing new scam is being reported by the FBI and news outlets, known as Ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malicious software (“malware”) that is infecting computers. It acts by locking or encrypting users’ data. Users see a message on their computer screen informing them that their data will be held until a ransom is paid. The price escalates for each day the ransom remains unpaid, and if the user refuses, it will be deleted. Unfortunately, this scam has already hit at least one law firm, albeit one in Canada. There are variations of the scam, including ones where the message purports to come from the FBI or a governmental entity and demands a “fine.”

The malware can come from a number of sources, including email, websites and infected flashdrives. Users unwittingly install the malware by clicking a link, opening an attachment, or simply visiting a compromised website. This malware is a variant of the Dorkbot worm, and simply put, there’s no end to the damage it can do. 

Where this scam is concerned, prevention is the best cure. Even if an email comes from someone you know, don’t click on a link or attachment unless you verify it or were expecting it. Use caution when browsing the web, and make sure your antivirus software is always current, as are your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox) and your operating system (load those service packs and updates!). Always have more than one computer backup. Keep in mind, any backups that are part of your network could be compromised too. They would need to be physically removed from the network, like a backup drive that is disconnected.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of a ransom request, first: don’t pay it! Report the scam immediately to the FBI Cyber Crime Division and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Then call a reputable computer professional for assistance.

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