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Ransomware is a type of malware. It infects your computer like other types of malware. This particular type of malware also takes over your files. It encrypts (scrambles) the files on your computer and any connected network drives making them unreadable you. The ransomware then pops up a window with instructions on how to pay the criminals money (ransom) to decrypt the files for you. Sometimes, if you pay the ransom, they will decrypt the files. Other times, they just keep asking for more money. It usually starts with $200 - $500 dollars but can be in the thousands.

Like all malware, ransomware is spread through malicious email attachments or by the user visiting an infected website where it is downloaded and installed. In some instances, users are directed to these sites by fake ads or links on social media. Ransomware is often not seen as malicious software by anti-virus programs as the developers are constantly modifying it.

There are some signs your system is infected even if you do not get a popup box. Your user files will have different file extensions. Examples might include: .crypto, _crypt, .toxcrypt, .magic, .SUPERCRYPT, .locky. You may also find a new text file on your computer with instructions on how to pay the ransom.

There are some things you can do to protect your computer and files.

Backup your files

Don’t enable macros in documents you receive via email

Don’t open attachments in email that you are not expecting

Keep your computer’s operating system patched and any programs like Office and Adobe Acrobat up-to-date.

If you believe your system has malware, we recommend you turn your computer off and contact the Technology Support Center at 314-516-6034.