ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – All computers at St. Louis Public Library locations are inoperable. The library says that they have been hacked and over 700 computers at 16 branches computers are being held for ransom.
Hackers install programs to make computers or entire networks unable to function. They will then hold the information or hardware for ransom until an amount of money is paid. Once the money is paid then the computers and information are generally restored.
It is not clear if any personal information has been breached. This ransomware attack affects both computers available to the public and those used for staff and administration.
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Ransomware is a form of malware that can not only restrict access to the computer system itself, but also infects it with a demand that a ransom be paid in order for the restriction to be removed.
Most of these attacks start by someone opening an email attachment. The RansomWare is often included in the attachment or link.
WHERE DID RANSOMWARE COME FROM?
The use of Ransomware was traced to Russia but has grown internationally. In June, 2013, the security software vendor McAfee revealed data showing it had collected over 250,000 unique samples of RansomWare in the first quarter of the year. This is more than double the number found in 2012.
HOW DOES IT THREATEN COMPUTERS?
Some of these hackers not only want to take control of your computer by locking down your systems, they also want money to stop the infections.
In other cases you may see a fake warning from the FBI or a police department detailing that your computer has been infected. The message will inform of what you will have to do to rid yourself of this type of problem, usually with some form of monetary payment involved. Even if you respond with a payment there is no guarantee these attacks will ever stop.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO GET RID OF IT?
They have seen cases where an elderly woman had her computer system infected and the hacker took photos of her through her webcam. She was shocked and confused. These thieves will ask you for a credit card number or some form payment to make it go away.
HOW CAN WE PREVENT IT?
To prevent Ransomware from infecting your computer use these simple steps to avoid an attack. These include ensuring that your computer has a properly configured firewall, updating each computer on a regular basis with the latest patches and updates from their vendor such as Microsoft, and restricting access solely to the administrator or person who operates the network or computer.