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FBI: Ransomware Investigation & Precautions

Ransomware is a major security threat to businesses, small and large. Imagine working on a few finishing touches on a project with a deadline coming up, but all of the sudden your computer stops responding. Then a splash screen appears, stating that you have 12 hours to pay a ransom or your computer data will be destroyed.  I hope you back up your computer regularly.

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A recent arrest of Maple Valley, Washington was Raymond Uadiale.  He did not create or spread the malware, but he collected ransomware payments from victims, taking some of the profit for himself. For his part in the crime, Uadiale pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and will spend 18 months in prison.

“He was the one who helped keep it going,” said Special Agent Christopher Rizzo, who investigated the case from the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “It would not have been profitable without his role in it.”

ransomware fbi cybersecurity online internet protection phish ransomComputer users who inadvertently downloaded the ransomware would find their computers locked behind an FBI logo, or some other law enforcement entity, screen, claiming they had violated federal laws by visiting illicit websites or downloading illegal files.

Ransomware Distribution

Rizzo said that the ransomware distributor would often place the malware on pornographic websites so that the affected computer user was more likely to believe the ransomware’s threats. “By infecting some of the ad space on a site, a user can get the ransomware just by being on that page,” Rizzo said. This type of drive-by infection is hard to detect and avoid.

“The FBI would never remotely lock someone’s computer. If you were truly under investigation, you would hear from us very directly. Our advice is, don’t pay the ransom.”

Christopher Rizzo, special agent, FBI Washington Field

Advice From FBI Agent Rizzo

Take the time to learn how to protect your computer and network. Institute a reliable file backup system. Rizzo also recommends an external drive that backs up on a pre-programmed regular schedule but is not constantly connected to your computer or network.

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The FBI take ransomware cases with caution as many of the cases involved more sinister and damaging variants of the malware.  Once the FBI was aware that the ransomware was impersonating the FBI or other law enforcement logos, they worked swiftly, collecting data and evidence from victim computers.

“We take them all very seriously,” said Rizzo of these cybercrimes. “But the fact that our logo and name were being used in this one—we took that personally.”

By working along the side of the U.K.’s National Crime Agency, the FBI was able to identify the source of the malware and secure a warrant to search his computers. From those machines, investigators learned more about those who aided the effort, including Uadiale. The malware creator’s trial is still pending in the United Kingdom.

How to Avoid Being a Victim of Ransomware

 Understand

Ransomware is a type of malicious software or malware that a user can inadvertently download it onto a computer by opening an e-mail attachment, clicking on an ad, or even visiting a website that is seeded with the malware.

ransomware attack threat cybersecurity online internet securityOnce the infection is present, the malware will lock up the computer. More menacing versions can encrypt files and folders on local drives, any attached drives, backup drives, and potentially other computers on the same network. Users discover they’ve been infected when they can no longer access their data or see computer messages advising them of the attack and making ransom demands with deadlines.

Prevent

The best way to avoid being exposed to malware is to be a cautious and conscientious computer user. Malware distributors have gotten increasingly savvy, and computer users need to be even more wary of e-mail links, e-mail attachments, online ads, and even some websites.

In addition, computer users should:

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  • Keep operating systems, software, and firmware current and up to date.
  • Ensure antivirus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans.
  • Back up data regularly with a secure backup system that is unconnected to the computers and networks is backing up.

Respond & Report

The FBI doesn’t support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack. If you are a victim of ransomware, go to a computer professional to remove the malware completely and report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, at ic3.gov. The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI and the National White-Collar Crime Center.

Original Article Found Here.