Last year, a woman named Inna called IT to report some strange issues with her computer. The IT department couldn't help, or figure out why she was having problems. When Inna came back to her computer a few days later, her screen was populated with hundreds of pop-up windows and she could not open any of her files. So, what happened?
The computer told her all of her files had been encrypted and locked; she was infected with the Trojan Cryptowall. To get her files back she was asked to pay $500 by cyber hackers, and she was told there were no other options to open the files.
Inna was able to message the "cryptohackers," who told her she had to download a browser which then redirected to a site where she was told she could get one of her files back for free - so she would trust these hackers. After getting her one filed unlocked, she then had only 1 week to pay the hackers. Inna was in the throes of a 21st century cyber-kidnapping.
Her next problem, the hackers required payment in bitcoins. For Inna, trying to get the bitcoins and placing them in the right hands took days. Once she successfully submitted the money, her files were unlocked.
Unfortunately, this is a hack that can happen to anyone. As we become more dependent on computers, it is important for all users to be aware of these types of potential scams, and safeguard their files and access to servers.
A few tips: make sure to back up all your important files and report any suspicious activity to the FBI, who has received more than 1,000 cryptowall complaints over the past two years.