The latest form of computer blackmail...

Recently the news has reported a significant increase in malware that holds the user to ransom! This type of malware known as ransom-ware, infects a users computer by blocking access to data. The blackmailer then demands a ransom to be paid to unlock their computer. This ransom is normally demanded in bitcoins as it is difficult to trace and normally amounts to one or two bitcoins - about £350. Other methods of payment of the ransom in the past have been a fictitious law enforcement notice which demand that the user proceeds to a web page purportedly from an official national crime agency.

The ransom-ware is often downloaded by pretending to be a popular app. This makes it more likely that the user will think it is benign and download it with confidence that it does not contain malware. So beware of any unknown or suspicious app or attachment. If you cannot verify the author or be completely sure of it's authenticity, avoid it.

There have been several instances of high profile infections. Even police forces have been victims - where payments have been made in order to retrieve their critical data in a time efficient way.

One of the problems with paying a ransom is that you are immediately added to a 'sucker list' which gets circulated throughout the criminal cyber world and you will continually be targeted by other criminals in a similar way. There are several ways to protect yourselves from this ransom-ware. As previously mentioned, do not click or download any attachment or app that you are not absolutely sure off. Always use a well produced and up to date firewall between your device and the outside cyber world. Crucially, don';t just rely on your anti-virus software, but routinely run anti-malware programs such as Malware Bytes. Most importantly, ensure that you have a separate back up that has not been infected and your data can then be reinstalled once the infection has been eliminated.