Ransomware is malware that holds your files for ransom. Here’s a real life example of how it works:

  1. You click on a link to a web page. This web page has been hacked but you don’t know that.
  2. A message comes up on your screen telling you that you might have malware on your PC.
  3. You click on a button to start their scanning program. It pretends to do a scan of your PC. This fake program can be called AntiVirus2009, FileFixerPro, or FileFix Professional.
  4. In the background it’s going through everything in your My Documents folder and encrypting all of the files. The encrypted files are now useless to you.
  5. A message comes up asking you for $50 to get a program that will unencrypt your files.
  6. If you pay, you may or may not receive a program that unencrypts them. The hackers would also then have your credit card details.

It’s a terrible situation to be in.

There are quite a few things you can do right now to prevent this from happening:

  • Make a backup of your files. If you’ve never made a backup before then try to do it today, don’t waste time. If you ever lose your files, or you’re a victim of ransomware, you can just recover from your backup.
  • When unexpected windows popup asking to do a scan of your PC, have a good think who’s asking. It’s an unsolicited request, so it’s probably a scam.
  • Install a good anti-virus package. One that scans every web page you access.
  • Start using one of the alternative web browsers, such as Chrome, Opera, FireFox, or Safari. These four browsers are better at detecting hacked web pages and at preventing malicious code from running. (They’re better than IE but not 100% safe).
  • Keep reading Fraudo to stay on top of these scams. You can subscribe to the RSS feed or by email (the email option is on the top right corner of this page).

And if you’re unfortunate enough to have this happen to you, there’s a free tool that may be able to recover your files. I bolded the word may because the hacker’s technology is getting better all the time and if they did things right it would be impossible to unencrypt it without paying. But for now you can try the method shown on this page.

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