Over the past year we have seen increasing instances of customers who have fallen victim to ransomware. Ransomware is a form of malware that works by holding your entire computer “hostage” until you pay anything from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in order to get the “key” to unlock your computer again.

And even if the ransom is paid, it does not guarantee that you can eventually access the infected system.

Ransomware is created by scammers who are knowledgeable in computer programming. It enters your PC through an email attachment or through your browser if you happen to visit an infected website, or they will fool you into clicking on an infected link to install the ransom application.

So what do you do if you are infected? First of all DO NOT pay the “ransom”. It will rarely give access back to your PC.  Instead, unplug the computer immediately and bring it to a technician who can remove the infection properly. Our staff at iPhix excel at cleaning this kind of infection.

As with other attacks, you can work to avoid being affected by ransomware in the first place. We advise the following to protect yourself from attack:

1. Use reputable antivirus software.

Maintaining your security software is critical. It’s important to use antivirus software from a reputable company because of all the fake software out there. We highly recommend the free Avast anti-virus.

2. Back up often.

If you back up files to either an external hard drive or to an online backup service, you diminish the threat.

3. Install and ad and popup blocker.

Popups are a prime tactic used by the bad guys, so simply avoid even accidentally clicking on an infected popup. If a popup appears, click on the X in the right-hand corner. We highly recommend installing Adblock Plus to your browser for this purpose.

4. Exercise caution.

Don’t click on links inside emails, and avoid suspicious websites. If it looks even a little suspicious, always assume it is.

5. Alert authorities.

Ransomware is a serious form of extortion. If you’ve been infected, it is good to report to the police that you have been targeted by such an attack.