Consumer Reports: Ransomware beware

Imagine hackers holding your computer files hostage- and then demanding money to get them back. It's called ransomware.

Raul Glasgow is a computer consultant who is all too familiar with ransomware. Not only has he helped clients whose files were held hostage by hackers, he also had to help himself!

“After like the first attack, I’m like, we’re ready for them. You know, there’s no way they’re gonna get through to us again. [laughs] Was I wrong," Glasgow said.

Glasgow says he started seeing ransomware attacks against his clients two or three years ago. Since then, he says, it’s become even more common.

"If you are victim of ransomware, you will see a pop-up window on your computer screen. It will say, all your files have been locked and to get them back, you’re going to have to pay a ransom. We suggest that you not click on the window, unless you are willing to pay," said Jerry Beilinson with Consumer Reports.

First, Consumer Reports says to make sure it’s not just a phony pop-up. Close your browser and if it comes back, then you may have an issue.

"If you have a recent backup of your data, you probably wont need to pay the the ransom. But if you don’t have recent backup, you very well have to pay the ransom in order to get your files back," Beilinson said.

If you do have a backup, you can transfer your files to a clean computer. Or, you may be able to rebuild your system. A computer professional can help with this if you don't have the skills yourself. And to make it harder for hackers to gain access to your computer, experts at CR say, keep your operating system and all software, including security software, up to date. Even better, turn on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it.