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What You Can Do if Your Computer is Being Held Hostage by Malware

Courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Ransomware is malware that takes over your computer and holds it hostage and demands payment before your computer will function properly again. Ransomware seizes control of the computer, can terminate programs, encrypts data so it will not open up, and makes programs inaccessible – except to reach locations which allow you to pay the ransom. You’ve been Jacked!

If your computer becomes infected with ransomware, do not panic and do not pay the ransom. Paying the money is no guarantee you will get control of your computer back. Sometimes the pirates just take your money and run. It is like the story going around the Eve gaming community, where someone wanted to buy into the game, starting with a larger ship costing $25,000 (real cash)! Unfortunately, the people he chose to purchase the ship from, were the pirates in the game. They took his money, gave him nothing, and told all the gamers about it. The gamers laughed with him – they understand that pirates do what pirates do: Steal, rob, and make false promises!

It is more than unwise to send the criminals money. Sending the money can cause you to not only be out the money, it can also leave you open to Identity Theft, in which case, your problems are only beginning.

Ransomware needs to be treated like any other spyware. You can either find the solution on line (you will have to use another computer!) and learn how to uninstall it, or have someone remove it for you. Malware is becoming increasingly more sophisticated, and now is actively programmed to hide itself from anti-virus programs, and to ignore un-install programming, so the removal process can be less than fun.

Protection from ransomware is the same as protection from any of the other viruses: keep your software up to date, install anti-virus software (we recommend ESET), use firewalls and install a pop-up blocker. It is always important to regularly back up your data. This will minimize problems and gives you a backup plan, should anything go awry.

If any of those nasty hijackers or pirates show up at your (computer) door this Halloween season, Don’t treat them: Don’t pay the ransom! Protect yourself using safe computing procedures (Don’t let them in), and if you need assistance, Nerds On Site is able to help you with purchasing, setting up, maintaining, and backing up your computer. If there is anything you have a concern about, call your local Nerd, he or she has probably seen it before – and will treat you right!

This post is from Susan Brooks, a Nerd living in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. You can find her on twitter (@susanthenerd), or email her susan.brooks(at)nerdsonsite(dot)com.

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