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Consumer Advice
Ransomware: Holding Your Computer Hostage for Money
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Ransomware: Holding Your Computer Hostage for Money

Ransomware: Holding Your Computer Hostage for Money
Get more consumer advice on ClarkHoward.com and The Clark Howard Show.

Ransomware: Holding Your Computer Hostage for Money

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert


The worst ransomware to date is freezing up computers until consumers pay scammers hundreds of dollars to supposedly implement a fix.

Crypto-Locker is apparently making the rounds and encrypting all the files on your computer hostage until you pay criminals $300 for them to unlock your files, according to The Cleveland Plain DealerIn some cases, even after you pay them, the crooks continue spying on you remotely with keyloggers. 

At this point, there is no fix for Crypto-Locker. That's why it's important you don't get it in the first place. You know the usual routine: Don't click on attachments, don't watch unsolicited, keep your anti-virus up to date, etc. 

The best advice I can give is this: Back up everything you have so you can abandon a computer if it's infected with Crypto-Locker. There are two ways you can do this. Either use afreemium back-up cloud service for data or use a back-up external drive. The latter is really cheap starting around $30.

The last instance of ransomware I reported was about a year ago. At that time, the Internet Crime Complaint Center said that Reveton malware was seizing up computers with pop-up windows branded with the FBI logo! The pop-up window typically warn the computer contains "child pornography, unlicensed materials or 'computer-use negligence,' according toThe Cleveland Plain Dealer.

If someone is holding your computer hostage for money, never pay the ransom. There's no way to tell the scammers will do what they say and not load additional viruses on your computer. Second, you're rewarding bad behavior if you pay them. 

Normally I talk about using free antivirus software to prevent something like this. But now the warning is that won't get it done. The recommendation I have is to contact a professional to clean your computer. Even if you're able to unfreeze your computer yourself, elements of the virus could remain behind.

Here's how to protect yourself going forward:

  • For basic protection, use anti-virus and anti-malware software and keep it up to date. See my Virus, Spyware and Malware Protection Guide for links to free options. 
  • Keep your browsers, applications and plug-ins up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates. Be sure to do this at home on your own secure connection.
  • When using WiFi at a hotel or other public hotspot, make sure you are using the real WiFi connection.  Some scammers try to lure people to a fake WiFi connection that can steal your info.
  • When using public wifi of any kind, don't access your financial institutions or do any kind of bank transaction--do that at home only!
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  • Responding to concerns about personal security for lawmakers after last week’s gun attack at a Congressional baseball practice, U.S. House leaders are moving to provide extra money to members for protection back home, as well as new funding to bolster the work of police and security officials on Capitol Hill. Under a plan approved by a House spending subcommittee on Friday, the Congress would provide an extra $7.5 million next year to the Capitol Police for an “increased security posture” around the Capitol, along with $5 million to the House Sergeant at Arms to help with security for lawmakers back in their districts. “We are taking a new fresh look at security,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), the Chairman of subcommittee that deals with funding for the Legislative Branch. Our FY18 Legislative Branch funding bill increases efficiency & transparency in Congress, enhances security for Members & our constituents. pic.twitter.com/FI36tF2XeH — Rep. Kevin Yoder (@RepKevinYoder) June 22, 2017 “The tragic events of June 14 weigh heavily on these deliberations,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which could vote on the extra money as early as this next week. Also being put into motion is a separate plan to funnel an extra $25,000 to each member of the House – about $11 million in all – to help them increase security back in their districts. “The scariest part for us is there used to be this impression by the public that we all had security everywhere we went,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). “Now, everyone knows that isn’t the case,” Ryan added, as he lent his support to the extra funding for security as well. The money in this budget bill would not take effect until the new fiscal year – which starts October 1 – so, House leaders are ready to okay extra money immediately for members worried about security back in their districts. Roll Call newspaper reported that could be approved in coming days by the House Administration Committee. Yoder said Congressional leaders are also waiting to see if money raised in campaign contributions for House elections could be put to use for security as well. “Pending an FEC (Federal Election Commission) decision, we’re also looking at whether campaign funds could be used to continue to support security upgrades at personal residences,” Yoder added.
  • An unknown aged girl went to the hospital with burns to her legs, following an overnight house fire. KRMG’s told the fire started around 2:40 a.m., at a residence on West 50th Court North. The homeowner says he was able to get his daughter, grand daughter and sleeping brother out of the house. So far, firefighters haven't released a cause for the fire.  The homeowner believes fumes from a gas can in the garage may have cause the blaze.   
  • Multiple people had to be rescued early Saturday morning in Rogers County. OTEMS paramedics report a boat started to sink on Oologah Lake just after midnight. “Additional information was received that the boat had its nose in the air, four individuals were in the water, and only one was wearing a PDF (personal flotation device),” an official said. “A Rogers County Deputy spotted what might be the boat south of Winganon Bridge but was unable to determine the precise location. However it was located by the Northwest Water Rescue unit and at 0048 hours the rescue boat reported that it had located the victims and was loading the fourth individual into the boat.” KRMG’s told the victims were hanging onto the hull when they were found. So far, no injuries have been reported.  Officials also haven’t released any names.   We do know the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has taken over the investigation.  
  • Tulsa investigators are looking for a driver who fled the scene, after hitting a male pedestrian late Friday night. Police report the auto-pedestrian collision happened around 11:34 p.m., near East Admiral and North Yale. “The pedestrian victim has been declared deceased at this time,” police said.   Investigators don't have a description of the driver or the car.  Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS.
  • We know this might start an argument, but according to Business Insider, Oklahoma's most famous band EVER is the Flaming Lips. Business Insider admits the song 'She Don't Use Jelly' is the Norman-based indie rockers only U.S. hit. But they say the band has had many hits in the U.K. and Europe and, even more impressive, three Grammys to their credit. Some on the list are hard to argue with, like Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band in New Jersey or Nirvana in Washington State. You can see the entire list of the most famous bands here.