A security threat to you is file-encrypting ransomware — malicious software that encrypts the files on your computer, restricting your access to them. The only way to get your files back is to pay a “ransom,” typically from $100 to $300. Cybercriminals may even demand that you pay with Bitcoin virtual currency.
Ransomware like Cryptolocker, and its new and more sophisticated variant CryptoWall, target all versions of Windows. Cybercriminals may attempt to infect your computer with this ransomware by tricking you into clicking on a malicious attachment in an email message. When you click, the ransomware downloads and installs on your computer.
If you happen to visit an infected website, CryptoWall may also download and install on your computer and begin encrypting your files without your knowledge — until you see a pop-up window offering to sell you a decryption key. If you have no backup of your data, you just might be stuck.
If you find that your computer has been infected, should you pay the ransom? The most important step to take is to contact OIT Security and Compliance via firstname.lastname@example.org or your system administrator for assistance. It may be possible that they can help to remove the infection and restore your files from good backups. Engaging in financial transactions with cybercriminals could increase your exposure and the university’s exposure to further threats.
To reduce your risk of becoming a victim of ransomware, please take the following precautions:
- Back up your important files regularly and store multiple copies in secure locations.
- Do not click on unsolicited links or attachments in email messages.
- Be suspicious of emails that come from people you don’t know, even if a message looks legitimate.
- Keep your antivirus software, operating system and other software patched and up-to-date.
- Search for and destroy any malware on your computer.