It’s no surprise that the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for online shopping. But did you know it’s also one of the busiest times for uploading pictures to photo sharing and social media sites? On average, more than 250 million photos per day were uploaded to Facebook alone during October, November and December of 2011.
That only includes the number of photos uploaded online, it doesn’t take into consideration, the photos being stored on personal devices and computers. This number only continues to grow.
Think about all those special get-togethers with family and friends that we capture and store on our devices. Now imagine, all of those precious moments in time, being locked and held for ransom. Well that’s exactly what’s happening with an emerging type of malware scheme known as ransomware.
Ransomware is a type of malware designed to infiltrate your computer and hold your files (photos, documents, reports, etc.) hostage until you pay the demanded amount of money to a cybercriminal. These files are being held ransom for money in some cases as much as $500. And paying the money doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get your files back.
According to the recently published Microsoft Security Intelligence Report volume 15, ransomware is on the rise. So what does it look like?
Ransomware often masquerades as an official-looking warning from a well-known law enforcement agency, such as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Metropolitan Police Service of London. It can look like a pop-up, accusing you of committing a computer-related crime, or a locked screen requiring a password. If you see these indicators, don’t pay the ransom. It’s most likely the latest scam created by cybercriminals to try and extort money.
One of the best ways to protect your files is to back them up using a removable drive or a cloud service like SkyDrive.
In addition to backing up your files, there are best practices that can help prevent ransomware from infecting your computer:
- Keep all software installed up to date.
- Use modern software that provides the latest security technologies and protections.
- Install and use an up-to-date, real time anti-malware solution from a vendor you trust. Some anti-malware software options are available on Microsoft’s security partner webpage.
- Don’t click on links or open attachments from untrusted sources.
You can also visit What is ransomware? for more information about ransomware and how computer users can avoid being taken advantage of by these threats. For additional guidance, regularly check our Safety & Security Center, where all of our tools and materials are available, including our Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit. “Like” our page on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. Get proactive and get involved – in online safety.