Tech Report: FBI warns about digital extortion


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The FBI is warning about the rise in digital extortion, or online ransomware, attacks by cyber criminals.

Ransomware is a form of malware. It works by either holding your entire computer hostage, or by blocking access to all of your files.

Then, people are ordered to pay up to thousands of dollars to get back the access to their computers.

KRON Tech Reporter Gabe Slate talked with a cyber security expert to find out how you can protect yourself.

Watch the above video to find out what you can do to avoid being a victim of digital extortion.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Always use antivirus software and a firewall. It’s important to obtain and use antivirus software and firewalls from reputable companies. It’s also important to continually maintain both of these through automatic updates.
  • Enable popup blockers. Popups are regularly used by criminals to spread malicious software. To avoid accidental clicks on or within popups, it’s best to prevent them from appearing in the first place.
  • Always back up the content on your computer. If you back up, verify, and maintain offline copies of your personal and application data, ransomware scams will have limited impact on you. If you are targeted, instead of worrying about paying a ransom to get your data back, you can simply have your system wiped clean and then reload your files.
  • Be skeptical. Don’t click on any emails or attachments you don’t recognize, and avoid suspicious websites altogether.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks access to a computer system or files until the victim pays a ransom to have them unlocked.

Victims typically pay between $200 and $10,000 to the criminals, the FBI says.

Malwarebytes Labs uncovered a malicious online advertisement being displayed on, which had disastrous potential to infect users with what’s known as Cryptowall ransomware – a piece of malware that encrypts your files and locks you out of your computer, demanding a ransom to recover them. Anyone running an outdated version of Adobe Flash Player (used for video and animation on the web) was susceptible to being infected during this attack. Malwarebytes Labs immediately notified the advertising network about the issue, which has since shut down the bad ad.

But what’s interesting is that this “malvert” (malicious advertisement) was different than others that Malwarebytes Labs and other experts have recently identified, in that the advertisement itself was also used as the exploit. Normally, malicious advertisements such as this re-direct victims to another website, where something like an exploit kit (a package of malicious software) infects their computer. But in this case, the advertisement itself is what infects victims.

Ransomware is evolving and that’s bad news for just about everybody except cyber thieves. Ransomware, which is a form of malware, works by either holding your entire computer hostage or by blocking access to all of your files by encrypting them. A person infected with ransomware is typically ordered (via a pop-up window) to pay anything from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars in order to get the key to unlock their encrypted data.

Here are some more tips on how to avoid digital extortion —>


For those who have been infected, removal instructions are available in Malwarebytes Labs forums:

The researchers at Malwarebytes Labs have published a blog detailing this attack here:

The FBI encourages individuals that have been victimized by ransomware to reach out to their local FBI FIELD OFFICE:

Adobe Flash Player Update —>

Adobe Flash Download Page —>

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