Texas Tech University

Beware of Ransomware

Ransomware scams are a real threat and are becoming more widespread. 

Ransomware is malware (malicious software) used for extortion. Using ransomware, Internet criminals can take control of a computer, including the files and information stored on it, and hold them hostage until a ransom is paid. Cyber criminals hold your information and system hostage by either blocking access to the computer or encrypting the files.

As with most spam and phishing schemes, ransomware is usually introduced through email, enticing the reader to visit a website or open an attachment. Ransomware can also be distributed by pop-up windows on public websites that have been compromised. Some Internet criminals cleverly impersonate credible authorities or organizations. Other ransomware scams trick the user into thinking they have done something illegal and are being contacted by law enforcement, or other authority.  

Once a system or device is infected with ransomware, the user receives a hostile communication outlining the terms of the ransom. Unfortunately, those that pay the ransom often do not get full system and data access returned, and they could be subject to further identity theft.

Be on guard and protect yourself against ransomware and other Internet-based criminal activities:

  • IMPORTANT! Backup your system regularly (automate backups to another location, e.g. network, cloud or external media);
  • If the data is very important, keep a second copy on offline media (maintain required compliance, e.g. encrypted if required);
  • Install anti-virus and anti-malware software, and keep them updated;
  • Be aware of current trends in scams and malware;
  • If an email, pop-up, or website seems suspicious, or if you have doubts about its validity, do not open the email or click on the pop-up;
  • Do not install software, plugins, or extensions unless you know they are from a reputable, legitimate source;
  • Be aware of phone calls purporting to be from Microsoft, Apple, or Dell offering to “fix” your computer;
  • Where feasible, use professional IT staff or IT services to set-up and manage your computers, especially if you run a business whose survival depends on the data on your computer;
  • Especially for home and small business users, if you use your own WiFi, do these 3 things as a minimum in order to secure your WiFi:
    • Change default system ID,
    • Change default password, and
    • Turn on encryption (WPA2 AES if available)
  • Maintain operating system and application updates - we recommend that you configure your system to install automatic updates:
    • Windows Users: Select “Windows Update” from your Windows Control Panel. Additional information for installing Windows Updates is available at: http://www.askit.ttu.edu/windowsupdate
    • Mac Users: Use Software Update in System Preferences

If you believe that your system is infected with ransomware, shut down your computer and contact your IT support or an IT professional.

Contact

Cybersecurity Practices Initiative: Lubbock