What the Tech: A growing ‘cyber hostage’ problem

 It sounds like something from a Hollywood movie. I mean, how  many times have you known someone who got a ransom note? But the FBI says it happens to regular people like you and me.

CryptoWall is a malware that gets installed on your computer. Detective Jeff McCliss says it’s bad stuff. It nabs every file on your computer and locks them up.

“You can’t open them until you get a key to un-encrypt them,” he says.

It will make your heart sink to see a lock screen, because CryptoWall works. Users click on an email or attachment that may seem legit, but it’s from a hacker. Antivirus programs are unable to keep up because the bad guys keep changing the code.

In McCliss’ case, his entire sheriff’s department computer system was held hostage, and had to pay the $500 ransom to get their computers back.

“They’re like landmines. There are these little bits of scripted code out on the web and whoever trips over them ends up becoming the victim,” McCliss says.

So how do you protect yourself? It isn’t easy. Don’t click on files or attachments that are suspicious. But sometimes they seem real. Update your antivirus program every few days and back up your computer. Not only back it up, but remove the back-up drive from your computer to keep it safe.

CryptoWall is bad news. And if you don’t have a back-up, you’ll either pay the ransom or get a new computer.

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