Navigating the Nightmare of Personal Data Ransom

 

Data thieves are busy unleashing a particularly nasty new strain of a larger body of viruses known as ransomware. Victims of this crime receive an pop-up ransom note that says their personal data has been encrypted and they must pay must pay $500 USD, or some other outrageous figure to decrypt. To motivate victims to pay, the thieves often double or triple their ransom amounts as deadlines are missed. Naturally, no one wants to pay a ransom of any size or sort, and the FBI advises against it, since it is extortion. Sadly, security experts are often ill equipped to decrypt these files and local police forces lack the reach to bring the miscreants to justice. According to a report in The New York Times, many ransomware viruses originate in Russia and other former Soviet bloc countries. The main difficulty in stopping these cybercriminals isn't finding them, but getting foreign governments to cooperate and extradite them. As in most things related to data security and identity protection, an ounce of prevention is what's needed. Keep the data on your computers and mobile devices backed up, so you have another version of the data in case of theft, damage or loss. You might also choose to opt for data storage with a cloud service like Dropbox or Carbonite - it's their job to keep your data safe and millions of satisfied customers trust them. Ultimately, it also comes down to your ability to detect scam email and avoid clicking on links or attachments that will infect your computer. Reputable companies like your bank or a store where you routinely shop will not send you an attachment, unless they themselves have been hacked. As a rule of thumb, do not open file attachments from anyone unless you know what is in the document, who is sending it to you and why.

 

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