SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) --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 in 2017 as experts predict the cloud could come under attack.
7 On Your Side partnered up with Consumer Reports to find a way to protect yourself.
Imagine hackers holding your computer files hostage and then demanding money to get them back. It's called ransomware and as Consumer Reports found out, even its 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 gonna get through to us again. Was I wrong," he said.
Glasgow says he started seeing ransomware attacks against his clients two or three years ago. Since then, he says, 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 says 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 say 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 really urges using preventative measures and says read any pop-up very carefully before clicking, even on a trusted website.
Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.
(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)