In the Know with the PIO: Ransomware

Imagine all your personal information, family photos, financial and other important documents on your computer being held hostage. Those are the only copies because you didn’t back up your files. What would you do to get them back? Would you pay someone, not a computer technician, the person holding your computer hostage?

Ransomware. Malware that’s impossible to remove from your computer. It’s affecting individuals and businesses around the world, with one of the most recent U.S. victims being a Maryland hospital group. Ransomware is one of the most frustrating forms of malware as it prevents or limits access to the victim’s computer. The perpetrator then requires the victim to pay a fee or ransom for the malware to be removed. Frequently, the ransom must be paid with Bitcoin, a digital payment system, making it difficult, if not impossible, to identify the perpetrator. Some individuals and companies, feeling they have no other options, pay. But payment doesn’t always guarantee your computer will be unlocked. So what do you do? The best thing is to take precautions so your computer doesn’t become infected, and back up your files. Unfortunately, even with safeguards in place, malware still finds its way into computers. Software security companies have been working to develop tools to help free computers that are being held hostage. There has been some success in helping victims of ransomware access their files free of charge; however, these tools aren’t effective with every strain of malware. Last year, Tech World published the 7 best ransomware removal tools – how to clean up Cryptolocker, Cryptowall and extortion malware.

To help protect your computer from ransomware, take the standard precautions:

  • BACK UP your files on a regular basis.
  • Install quality security software. PCMag.com just published The Best Antivirus Utilities for 2016. Take the time to compare software and choose one that’s best for you and your family.
  • Don’t open suspicious email attachments or attachments containing a zip file.
  • Don’t click on suspicious links; this includes those received via social media and instant messages.
  • Install a browser add-on to block popups.
  • Disable file sharing.

These are a few of the basic precautions for protecting your computer against malware. For additional tips, visit tripwire.com.

DISCLAIMER: Mentions of businesses, services or products in this article are not endorsements of such by the author, Farmington Police Department or the city of Farmington. Individuals are encouraged to research and choose products and services that are suitable to them.

Allen, GeorgetteGeorgette Allen is the community relations liaison and public information officer for the Farmington Police Department. She has been with FPD for eight years, six of which she served as a victim advocate before transitioning to her current position. Georgette holds a Bachelor of Science in Technical Communication from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Social Work from New Mexico Highlands University. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and the National Information Officers Association.

 

Tips to help make your child’s Internet usage safe

Everyone is online these days, in one form or another, because it is so useful. The Internet offers a multitude of ways to interact with the rest of the world; but it can also be a scary place for parents with young children. According to Netsmartz.org, 95% of 12 to 17-year-olds are online every day, and because the Internet is easy to access, it also poses certain risks including:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Exposure to inappropriate material
  • Online predators
  • Revealing too much personal information

Learning to recognize the warning signs of these risks will allow trusted adults to intervene and mitigate the potential negative impacts.

Taking a proactive approach to Internet use may help lessen the risk of children falling victim to online predators. The Farmington Police Department suggests the following to help guard children from Internet dangers:

  • Choose a commercial online service that offers parental control features.
  • Teach your children never to give out their address, telephone number, password, school name or any other personal information. (This includes sending pictures of themselves).
  • Make sure your children know to never agree to meet face-to-face with someone they’ve met online without discussing it with you. Only if you decide that it’s okay to meet their “cyber-friend” should they arrange to meet this person, and then the meeting should be in a familiar public place in the presence of a trusted adult.
  • Teach your children never to respond to messages that have bad words, are scary, make them uncomfortable or are just plain weird. Remind them that it is not their fault if they receive such a message, but not to participate in that type of conversation. By not condoning bullying, it will help to curb the behavior.
  • Teach your children never to enter an area that charges for services without asking you first.
  • Ensure access to the Internet at your children’s school is monitored by adults. Talk to his/her teacher and find out what the class/school rules are regarding Internet use.
  • Keep the home computer in a high-traffic area of your home.
  • Establish limits for which online sites children may visit and for how long.
  • Remember that Internet technology can be mobile, so make sure to monitor cell phones, gaming devices, and laptops.
  • Surf the Internet with your children and let them show you what they like to do online.
  • Know who is connecting with your children online and set rules for social networking, instant messaging, e-mailing, online gaming, and using webcams.
  • Continually dialogue with your children about online safety.
  • Have your children check with you before downloading or installing software or doing anything that could jeopardize the family’s privacy.

Keeping these guidelines in mind will help develop young responsible online citizens. The Internet has drastically changed the way that children interact with the world. They have access to in-depth knowledge, tools for education and to express their creativity, and the capability to connect with others from all over the world. By acting as a resource, parents and guardians can help make the Internet a safer place for their families. As a parent or guardian, it is important that you stay well informed about the current issues to understand what your children may be experiencing on and off the Internet. If they are social networking, take the time to show them how to do it safely. Children whose parents and guardians regularly talk to them about personal safety are more likely to exhibit responsible behavior on their own.

Netsmartz.org is an excellent resource to find additional tips and discussion starters to help parents facilitate more dialogue about Internet safety with their children.

 

PhotoAnna Johnston is an intern with the Farmington Police Department. She is pursuing a degree in criminal justice from San Juan College.