Ransomware schemes on the rise – Times Union

Time to cue up the soundtrack from “Jaws” as the cyber-sharks circle.

We’ve read news on hackers who stole Social Security numbers and other data from more than 21 million people out of U.S. government computer systems.

And now, we’re hearing more about something called “ransomware” — the latest cyber scam that involves trying to extort money from individuals and business owners by infecting and taking control of the victim’s computer.

Ransomware isn’t just a great plot for a TV series, such as one used several months ago on “The Good Wife” on CBS. It’s a real-life threat for individuals and some businesses. It’s one more reminder of why you need to back up files and should never click on links, open attachments or visit websites if you’re uncertain of their origin.

Basically, the scam artists hold your data — your photos, your music, your other computer files — hostage until you pay up.

The ransom dollars? Victims are being asked to cough up anywhere from $200 to $10,000. Often, victims are asked to use bitcoin to pay the money.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center issued a report in late June to warn that ransomware continues to spread typically through a threat called CrytoWall and its variants.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said that it received 992 CrytoWall-related complaints between April 2014 and June 2015. Victims reported losses totaling more than $18 million.

That’s just one type of ransomware.

“We have seen many more cases of ransomware, especially in the past year,” said Silka Gonzalez, president and chief executive of Enterprise Risk Management, a cybersecurity company in Coral Gables, Fla.

Targets for the scheme, she said, have included smaller law firms, small-to-medium-size entrepreneurs and others who might have less-sophisticated protections in place for their computer systems. In some cases, she said, ransoms have been $20,000 to $50,000

Originally appeared at: http://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-business/article/Ransomware-schemes-on-the-rise-6405707.php