Ransomware Awareness Tips

Ransomware is a type of malicious software (malware) that freezes your computer or mobile device until a sum of money is paid. It can destroy personal and business files, leading to stolen data and large financial losses.


  • Ransomware attacks—especially those that target small businesses—are evolving in complexity and are on the rise.
  • All devices are vulnerable, but more and more mobile attacks are being reported.
  • $209 million collected by criminals in the first quarter of 2016.
  • A projected $1 billion + in losses from ransomware attacks in 2016 alone, according to the FBI.
  • Ransom fees vary, from $200 to $10,000.


Ransomware targets a specific individual with a business, or a consumer with a link or attachment that infects our computer with malware or leads you to an infected website. Three ways ransomware can take shape are:

Spear phishing emails

  • The sender appears to be someone you may know or someone relevant to your business.
  • The message is often personalized, and may include your name or a reference to a recent transaction.

Advertisements or pop-up windows

  • Your computer freezes, and a popup message appears.
  • The message may threaten a loss of your files or information, or may also tell you that your files have been encrypted.

Downloadable software

  • Ransomware is also present in downloadable games and file-sharing applications.
  • Once the PC is infected, your files are encrypted and inaccessible. The fraudster demands a ransom payment in order to unlock them.


  • Always back up your files and save them offline or in the cloud.
  • Always use antivirus software and a firewall. Be sure they are set up to update automatically.
  • Enable popup blockers.
  • Don’t click. Be cautious when opening emails or attachments you don’t recognize—even if the message comes from someone in your contact list.
  • Only download software from sites you know and trust.
  • Alert your local law enforcement agency as soon as you encounter a potential attack.

If you suspect you are the victim of a ransomware attack, contact your local FBI field office.

Content provided by American Bankers Association.