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Under the tectonic plates of information security a new type of hack is bubbling. Websites are being increasingly poisoned with “ransomware,” a bit of software that will literally take your computer hostage.

When you access a website that has been infected with ransomware, the program will lock your machine and bring up an error message. Typically, this message will pretend to come from a reputable security company. The company will say your computer has been infected, but the company can save you…if you pay them a small fee. Any credit card or debit number will do.

How courteous and downright heroic of them.

Anyone who disbelieves this message will quickly realize they no longer have control of their computer. The fist under the velvet glove is really a ransom, and the company pretending to come to your aid is really the perpetrator. The pirate is saying they will give your computer back in exchange for the “security fee.”

Ransomware has become increasingly prevalent because it can be hooked onto legitimate websites. According to Symantec, a security company: almost two-thirds of malicious websites are actually legitimate websites that have been compromised by illicit activity. Our best piece of advice? Know who to trust.

If your computer is taken hostage, then hit Control + Printscreen (Apple users – hit Command + Shift + 3). This will save a copy of the screen to your clipboard, which you can then paste into an email to a trusted advisor. If you cannot access your email, then call your security advisor and tell them about the problem. Do not pay the illicit fine.

We also recommend that as a precautionary measure familiarize yourself with your antivirus software. And only trust people you know and the firm you have chosen for protection. If you receive a message from another security firm, do not presume it is legitimate.

Many of the security issues out there are easily solvable, once you have established a trusted connection.

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