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Ransomware: Don't be a victim

Posted August 21, 2019 2:45 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2019 6:22 p.m. EDT

— Ransomware, which threatens to publish your data or block access to it unless a ransom is paid, hits everyone, not just the government.

Scammers hide ransomware in email, websites and apps. When it hits, you can't access anything. Hackers demand hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, and often in the virtual currency, bitcoin.

One attack on a smartphone threatened to sell some of the owner's personal information on the black market every 30 minutes unless the ransom was paid.

Experts say the best defense against ransomware is prevention. Be very cautious when opening links, and keep your operating system and security software up-to-date.

On your phone, experts recommend only downloading apps from official sites such as Google Play or Apple.

It's also a good idea to regularly back up your computer files.

"If you have a recent backup of your data, you probably wont need to pay the the ransom," said Jerry Beilinson from Consumer Reports. "But if you don't have recent backup, you very well have to pay the ransom in order to get your files back."

Know that, even if you pay, there's no guarantee your data or device will be back to normal. If you are attacked, visit nomoreransom.org. The website may be able to point you to a fix, saving you the ransom.