Feb 19 2014, 6:45pm CST | by Forbes
Remember the maxim “knowledge is power?” I’d like to amend that to say “information is capital.” The bits and bytes that cyberthieves are ripping off are worth billions on the black market.
There are sites where Social Security numbers and dates of birth are peddled. Credit card information is purloined. Medical data is stolen for vital identification numbers. This black market is a decentralized, 24/7 enterprise that respects no national boundaries, can’t be policed by armies and is growing by the minute.
The latest cyberscam that caught my eye goes one step further than theft: It holds your computer files for ransom. It’s like some brigand from a Third-World Country gains access to your hard drive, locks it up and demands money to unlock it. Normally, I’d say this was some kind of hoax, except that the FBI and U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have issued a warning on this “Cryptolocker” scam:
* Cryptolocker is spread mostly through email and “drive-by” downloads.
* The email might look like a routine message from a legitimate company, like a tracking notice from a shipping company.
* If you click on the hyperlink in the email, Cryptolocker encrypts everything on your hard drive and in your shared folders.
* The criminals behind this malware say they’ll give you the encryption key if you pay, but they’re hardly trustworthy. And there’s no other way to unlock your files.
What can you do to avoid this crime?
* Regularly back up your files
* Don’t download anything you haven’t identified as something that’s legitimate.
* Don’t click on unknown links.
* Make sure your security software updates regularly.
* Don’t give out personal information unless it’s on an encrypted website.
* Change your passwords on a regular basis.
I’m not saying that any one of these protective measures will fend off a hacking attack. I’ve been hacked numerous times and it’s no fun. But you can employ a number of safeguards that may slow these trolls down./>/>
John F. Wasik is the author of Keynes’s Way to Wealth: Timeless Investment Lessons from the Great Economist and 13 other books. An investor protection advocate, he speaks and writes regularly on investing, economics and personal finance.
Source: Forbes Business
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