A new variation of ransomware has been turned loose and it's even more capable of locking up your computer from the moment of first entry.
Read more: Top 10 scams coming after your money!
Beware of this ransomware virus
Ransomware has been around for a long time, freezing up computers until consumers pay scammers hundreds of dollars to supposedly implement a fix.
A couple of years ago, it was a variant called Crypto-Locker that got all the attention. Crypto-Locker would encrypt all the files on your computer until you paid criminals $300 to unlock your files, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. In some cases, even after you paid them, the crooks would continue spying on you remotely with keyloggers.
Before that it was Reveton ransomware which would seize up computers with pop-up windows branded with the FBI logo! Reveton would say that your computer contains child pornography or unlicensed materials, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Now we have the latest variant: Spora.
According to Intel, Spora is more insidious than past ransomware variants because it makes use of off-line encryption.
"Spora bypasses the need to call-home for an encryption key and can immediately begin file encryption once it gains a foothold on the target system," Intel notes in a blog post. "This evolutionary change was expected, but we all hoped it would take longer before the ransomware writers would successfully develop and implement such a feature."
At this point, there is no fix for Spora. That's why it's important you don't get it in the first place. You know the usual routine: Don't click on attachments, don't watch unsolicited, keep your anti-virus up to date, etc.
Here's another alternative: Clark has long advised people to back up everything they have so they can abandon a computer if it's infected with ransomware.
There are two ways you can do this. Either use a freemium back-up cloud service for data or use a back-up external drive. The latter is really cheap starting around $30.
If someone is holding your computer hostage for money, never pay the ransom.
First, there's no way to tell the scammers will do what they say and not load additional viruses on your computer. Second, you're rewarding bad behavior if you pay them.
Normally, Clark talks about using free antivirus software to prevent something like this. But that's not enough. You may need to contact a professional to clean your computer if you're infected. Even if you're able to unfreeze your computer yourself, elements of the virus could remain behind.
Here's how to protect yourself going forward:
- For basic protection, use anti-virus and anti-malware software and keep it up to date. See our Virus, Spyware and Malware Protection Guide for links to free options.
- Keep your browsers, applications and plug-ins up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates. Be sure to do this at home on your own secure connection.
- When using Wi-Fi at a hotel or other public hotspot, make sure you are using the real Wi-Fi connection. Some scammers try to lure people to a fake Wi-Fi connection that can steal your info.
- When using public Wi-Fi of any kind, don't access your financial institutions or do any kind of bank transaction — do that at home only!