Consumer Reports: Protect yourself from 'ransomware'

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Have you ever heard of ransomware? It's a software that blocks access to your computer until ransom money is paid. The FBI says $24 million payments was paid in 2015, which then grew to $1 billion in 2016. (WLS)

Have you ever heard of ransomware? It's a software that blocks access to your computer until ransom money is paid. The FBI says $24 million payments was paid in 2015, which then grew to $1 billion in 2016.

It's expected to get even worse this year as experts predict the cloud could come under attack. Consumer Reports shows you how to protect yourself.

Imagine hackers holding your computer files hostage and then demanding money to get them back. It's called "ransomware." As Consumer Reports found out, even IT experts can be victims.

Raul Glasgow is a computer consultant who is all too familiar with ransomware. Not only has he helped clients whose files were held hostage by hackers, he also had to help himself.

"After like the first attack, I'm like, we're ready for them. You know, there's no way they're going to get through to us again. Was I wrong," Glasgow said.

Glasgow said he started seeing ransomware attacks against his clients two or three years ago. Since then, he said, it's become even more common.

"If you are a victim of ransomware, you will see a pop-up window on your computer screen. It will say that all your files have been locked and to get them back, you're going to have to pay a ransom. We suggest that you not click on the window unless you are willing to pay," Consumer Reports' Jerry Beilinson said.

First, Consumer Reports said to make sure it's not just a phony pop-up. Close your browser and if it comes back, then you may have an issue.

"If you have a recent backup of your data, you probably won't have to pay the ransom. But if you don't have recent backup, you very well have to pay the ransom in order to get your files back," Beilinson said.

If you do have a backup, you can transfer your files to a clean computer or you may be able to rebuild your system. A computer professional can help with this if you don't have the skills yourself.

To make it harder for hackers to gain access to your computer, experts at Consumer Reports said to keep your operating system and all software, including security software, up to date. Even better, turn on automatic updates so you don't have to think about it.

Consumer Reports urges using preventative measures and said to read any pop-up very carefully before clicking, even on a trusted website.
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