Help! My computer’s being held to ransom!

A recent spate of malicious software appearing on peoples computers and a new emerging version of a threat, nicknamed ‘Ransomware’, which can encrypt your files and demand a hefty sum to allow access to them again, has prompted the police to issue warnings to computer users nationwide to be on the lookout for telltale signs of suspicious activity or threats that they may be in danger of encountering on their computers and laptops.

The new ‘ransomware’ threat often arrives in an innocent looking email, maybe from an associate or institution you know and trust. These emails may contain hidden software disguised in the form of an attachment, which, if clicked, will flash up a message ‘Your personal files have been encrypted and you have 90 hours to pay £200 to unlock them.’ At this time the ransomware program locks and highly encrypts all of your personal data files, documents, emails and photos. The only way to get back to them, is to pay the demanded ransom, and even then it is questionable whether you’d get your files back.

It is estimated that over 1 million computers have been targeted with this particular threat in the last month alone. While there is nothing new about ransomware – indeed there are examples of ransomware going back to 1989 – there has been an unusual surge in affected machines in the last few months with the threats becoming more and more aggressive in nature.

If don’t have a backup of your data and you get hit by a threat like this, it is very likely you will have lost all of your data, documents, photos and emails for good. What’s more, anyone who has had access to your computer data remotely as a result of this infection, could feasibly access all of your files, to do with as they please.

Technically, ransomware is not a virus, and can sneak onto your machine via email attachment or a ‘drive-by download’. The later a result in as simple an action as visiting a compromised website. Certainly, at this busy time of year with people buying and conducting their business online, more than ever, it is even more essential than normal that all computer users take the measures needed to ensure a safe online experience.

Signs that your computer may be susceptible to attack

Has your browser’s home page changed from the usual one you are used to?
Are you seeing unusual prompts/questions displayed by unexpected software, such as ‘Registry scanners’, or ‘PC speed boosters/heath optimisers’?
Are you being asked to backup software by ‘My PC Backup’ or similar programs?
Is your internet browser now showing Yontoo/Delta toolbars or downloaders?

Best Practices

Back up your files;
Keep your system up to date, specifically, Windows;
Ensure that your Anti Virus is up to date and do a scan;
Make sure your Internet Browser (Internet Explorer/Firefox/Chrome);
Have a computer ‘health check/MOT’ regularly contact us to do this;

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