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The world's fastest-growing computer virus is holding people to ransom

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If childhood cartoons taught us anything (heroes are immortal, violence is hilarious, the effects of gravity suffer a three second delay if you run off a cliff), it's that ransom demands always take the form of crumpled threats constructed from hastily cut up newspapers.

Were the Looney Toons still educating children of 2015, we'd love to see how they'd update this trope for the world's fastest growing computer virus: ransomware.

The Australian government has published a report finding that 72 per cent of businesses surveyed experienced ransomware incidents in 2015 - up from 13 per cent of businesses who reported incidents in 2013. While business servers and computers are more regularly targeted, a growing trend of smartphone attacks was recorded, targeting users through malicious apps.

Ransomware infiltrates a user's computer or device - usually downloaded by mistake, masquerading as a safe piece of software or application update - and sets about encrypting files, locking up entire computers or server networks. The user is then approached by the ransomware's creator with a fee for unencrypting the files, restoring them to their usable form. Businesses are often targeted, as they'll often be more willing to pay fees for the return of valuable data and files. 

"For the most part, we've seen ransomware delivered through drive-by downloads - it pretends to be a popular app, increasing the chances that you'll click on it," Gert-Jan Schenk of security company Lookout told the BBC. "To avoid these threats, users should be very careful about what apps they install, and where they come from - read the reviews on Google Play, and avoid side-loading from untrusted sources."

Security experts recommend that no ransomware demands be paid, as payment doesn't guarantee that files will be unencrypted, and may mark you down as a target more likely to give in to such demands.

So - never download a file attachment, software or app from an untrusted source, and if you do find yourself faced with a ransomware note, seek out a reputable IT solutions company. They may well be able to restore your files from previously backed-up data.

[Via: BBC]

(Image: Shutterstock)

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