Imagine if everything on your computer was “kidnapped” — including all of your precious family photos and important personal documents. And the only way you could access any of it again was if you paid a lot of money — or bitcoins — to a hacker. Even if you pay, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your stuff back.
Sounds like something out of a movie, right? Unfortunately, it’s happening in real life. It’s called ransomware. You might’ve heard news stories about ransomware attacks on hospitals, universities, and other large organizations, too.
Hackers do it by encrypting files on your computer — and files you’ve saved to connected hard drives or any shared folders. Once the files are encrypted you won’t be able to open them without the encryption key — which you can get only if you pay the amount hackers demand. That could be hundreds or thousands of dollars.
It’s a serious problem. That’s why the FTC is holding a ransomware event on September 7 in Washington, DC. We’ll talk with security experts, law enforcers, and others about what steps people and businesses can take to protect their computers — and what to do if you’re a victim.
by Aditi Jhaveri
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
Poto: Justin Lane/EPA