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Increase in Ransomware Infections Target Windows Operating Systems

Alert: We have received reports of ransomware infections targeting both consumers and businesses. Ransomware is a type of malicious software primarily targeting Windows operating system users.

The following list includes characteristics most typical of ransomware:

  • Locks targeted operating system to limit or prevent it from being used until a ransom is paid, usually in BitCoins.
  • Encrypts files on the targeted system, only releasing the decryption key to the target after the ransom is paid.
  • Ransom note is left on the system containing instructions on how to pay the ransom and regain access to the system/files.

Ransomware will often use malicious email attachments disguised as invoices, energy bills or images to infect the targeted device. Other forms of ransomware include false security messages claiming malware on a user’s device. Fraudulent companies will claim they can clean the device for a price, but instead of honoring such claims, the user’s networks and devices become infected.

The following best practices will help protect you from online attacks:

  • Delete suspicious emails.
  • Do not open suspicious links. Oftentimes, fraudulent links will take users to a site requesting personal information.
  • Do not open suspicious attachments, especially those you are not expecting.
  • Beware of “smishing” attempts. Smishing is an SMS phishing scam aimed at mobile users. In this scam, users receive a text message from a seemingly legitimate source, but leads to another scam.
  • When browsing the web, think before clicking on links and banners. Authors of ransomware will often use pop-up windows warning you of malware on your machine. Do not click on the window. Instead, close the browser with a keyboard command (CTRL W) or right-click on the taskbar.
  • Back up important files on a regular basis. Use an external hard drive, online ("cloud") service, USB flash drive or recordable media (such as a disc).
  • Use computer security software that protects your system against viruses and spyware attacks, and be sure to update the definitions often.

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