Imagine hackers holding your computer and all of the files on it hostage, then demanding money from you to recover access.
It’s a growing problem, even in the Triangle.
A Raleigh man became a victim to the scam this fall. While on his computer, a security warning popped up with a phone number to call. Hackers locked his computer using ransomware.
Consumer Reports says it can happen to anyone.
“If you are victim of ransomware, you will see a pop-up window on your computer screen. It will say, ‘all your files have been locked and to get them back, you’re going to have to pay a ransom,'” Consumer Reports’ Jerry Beilinson said. “We suggest that you not click on the window unless you are willing to pay.”
Consumer Reports says to make sure the pop-up isn’t fake by closing your browser window. If it comes back when you reopen, you could have a real problem.
The solution to the problem is in backing up files beforehand.
“If you have a recent backup of your data, you probably won’t need to pay the the ransom. But if you don’t have recent backup, you very well have to pay the ransom in order to get your files back,” Beilinson said.
If you have a backup, you can transfer files to a clean computer or use them to rebuild your current one. A computer professional can usually help rebuild a machine or help set up a new one.
To make it harder for hackers to gain access, keep your operating system and all software, including security software, up to date.
Turning on automatic updates for those programs can help with that.
Consumer Reports recommends other preventative measures such as carefully reading any pop-up before you click, even on trusted websites.
The Raleigh man who fell victim to the scam called the number of his screen thinking he was working with Microsoft. He initially paid the fee to “fix” his computer, but ultimately, his daughter was able to get his computer unlocked and his money back.
A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.