How to Protect Yourself Against a Ransomware Attack

Dan, a Realtor®, was sitting down to his computer for a day at the office. He had two transactions in the works and needed to check on the lender’s progress for one of his buyers. When he logged onto his computer, he was shocked to see a pop-up box flashed on the screen with the FBI logo. It said the FBI had seized his computer due to illegal activities and he would need to pay a fine before getting back his files.

Dan thought about it…why would the FBI seize his computer? He hadn’t done anything wrong. Desperate to get back to his transactions, he picked up the phone and called IC3, the FBI’s internet crimes division. The FBI took this cybercrime personally because it had involved their logo.

The FBI did end up seizing Dan’s computer, not because he had done anything wrong, but because they needed to trace the hacker behind the ransomware attack. It took 3 years and lots of manpower, but the hackers were finally caught! Hundreds of victims had been attacked in the US with over $100,000 reported lost. Dan’s main question was, how did this happen? Why did this hacker target him?

In the FBI’s investigation, they reported that people who visited certain websites were targeted.  By using the user’s profile from those websites, they were able to target victims by infiltrating through emails and downloading the ransomware. Fortunately, in this case, the hackers were caught.  Dan was lucky he didn’t pay the ransom. By alerting the authorities, he aided the FBI in stopping the hackers from attacking more people.

How could this have been avoided?

  • Pay attention to websites you visit! It’s important to be wary of websites that don’t begin with “https.”
  • Back up EVERYTHING! An external drive will keep your data safe if your computer is ever targeted by ransomware.
  • Think before you act. If you ever get ransomed, calm down before doing anything out of fear.
  • Contact the FBI and report! Reporting issues with cybercrime helps to collect data needed to find and put hackers behind bars!

Here at Independence, it’s our mission to educate agents on cybercrime and protect future transactions to the fullest extent. Stay alert! Stay educated! Stay Lucky! Happy St. Patty’s Day and may the luck of the Irish be on your side!


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