A ransomware is a virus blocking your computer and asking for a ransom
Ransomware is a word made from the contraction of ransom and software. This is a rather sophisticated scam that can affect anyone. The number of such scams is currently in exposure, but also in evolution. How does this scam work ?
A few months ago, the principle of a ransomware was to block your computer followed by the appearance of a screen as the one of the image below:
A text with a pseudo-official header informs you that you have violated the law. It informs you that you must immediately pay a fine that will unlock your computer. You will be prompted to send a sum of money by a money transfer service (Ukash, Western Union).
This is by no means a message from the Police or the FBI but a ransomware, a computer virus developed by cybercrime mafias. This virus has infected your computer and continually displays the image.
Recently, the ransomware has evolved and scammers no longer hide behind an official organism for ransom. Scammers send spam inviting to open an attachment, in the guise of an invoice for example. If the user opens the attachment, the virus starts by encrypting the hard disk contents with an almost indecipherable system. It then blocks access to all data.
So scammers don’t need to pretend to be the FBI to make you pay. They demand a ransom in exchange of decrypting your data.
Do not accept to pay at a ransomware !
Like often in the case of Internet scams, the best way to fight against ransomware is prevention. For this, it is important to make backups of your data.
It is useful to regularly replicate your data to an external hard drive. This way, if your computer is blocked by a ransomware, it is possible to format it completely and then copy your data from the external hard drive. This is also useful if your computer gets stolen.
Alternatively, make a backup of your computer, via Windows or Mac tools. On Windows, go to the Control Panel and click the “save the computer” icon.
However, you should not accept blackmail! In fact, if you make a transfer as the screen prompts you to do, you will enrich the scammers behind this virus and it is likely that you do not even receive what is needed to decipher your computer, which will remain locked!