Helping you balance your online life

Aug 9th


The latest in cybercrime: Ransomware

Laptop Computer with a Giant Eye

Imagine this: a hacker steals all the files from your computer—all your photos, personal documents, emails, account documents and everything else you've saved over the years. If you want your files and photos and videos back, you must pay a ransom. This is called ransomware, a rising threat used by cybercriminals to extort money from people desperate to get their information back.

We all know hackers can steal information. Now, cybercriminals have started encrypting all the files and photos they steal from your computer so that you can't access them—essentially holding your personal information, important documents and photos hostage and demanding a ransom to release them.

So far, ransomware has extorted millions of dollars from people. Unfortunately, once it has been stolen, there is no guarantee you can get it back. The best defense against ransomware is to prevent your files from getting stolen in the first place.

Steps to help avoid ransomware

  1. Always back up your files. It's good practice to help protect your files in case your computer crashes, is stolen or attacked by ransomware. Put a copy of your files onto a cloud drive or external hard drive.
  2. Make sure all of your software is up to date. Companies like Windows, Apple and Adobe are constantly updating their software to better protect against cyber attacks like ransomware. It's worth the extra few minutes it takes it to protect your files.
  3. Don't click on any ads, emails or social media messages that seem suspicious. Hackers may attempt to access your computer by sending you links and attachments. Don't open anything that has a lot of typos in it or is from someone you don't know.
  4. Add an extra layer of protection on top of your antivirus software. AOL TechFortress uses a unique, patented isolation and containment method to block viruses and malware that are undetected by traditional antivirus software.

If ransomware ends up on your computer

  1. Turn off your computer. If you think ransomware recently attacked your computer, shut it down immediately. This will stop the ransomware from doing any further damage.
  2. Take your computer to your nearest tech support to get the ransomware removed or attempt to restore your computer.
  3. If restoring your computer doesn't work and the files are extremely valuable, the only option to recover the files may be to pay the ransom. There is a chance that paying will get your files back, but it is not a guarantee. That's why it's so important to prepare for and prevent these cyber attacks before they happen.