Helping you balance your online life

May 17th


Breaking News: Experts Warn of Computer Security Threat Quickly Spanning the Globe

Laptop Computer with a Giant Eye

A global cyberattack is underway and it has already affected hundreds of thousands of computer systems around the world. Experts warn that this threat, known as ransomware, is more complex than they originally believed and is spreading fast. While the current attack has been focused on businesses, it could hit your personal computer soon.

According to the New York Times, the source of the attack is a delicate issue because the code was purportedly developed by the National Security Agency as part of the United States' arsenal of cyberweapons. Experts are still investigating the leak of the code.

While some experts warn that we should be on guard for copycat attacks, Britain's National Cyber Security Center says it has seen "no new sustained attacks" but warned that compromised computers and networks may not have been detected yet and "existing infections from the malware can spread within networks."

Ransomware is a rising threat used by cybercriminals. They steal all the files from a computer—photos, personal documents, emails, account documents and everything else saved over the years—encrypt them so they can't be accessed, and then extort money from people desperate to get their information back.

Before this latest outbreak, ransomware had already extorted millions of dollars from people. Unfortunately, once your information 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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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, you may feel that the only option to recover the files is to pay the ransom (although many experts warn against doing so). 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.