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Stay Safe Online: Avoiding Ransomware

The internet is a minefield to those unfamiliar with its trickery and darker sides, but there are ways to stay safer online

We occasionally get phone calls from worried customers who believe they may have accidently succumb to internet deviants and fraudsters, it’s unfortunate to admit that the internet is both a wonderful and terrible place. But much like real life, there’s nice places… and not so nice places.

To those initiated and familiar with some of the simple and ingenious ways these systems work it’s fairly easy to avoid becoming a victim online. But it can happen to anybody however there are steps that you can take, armed with a little knowledge and taking a few extra precautions can make you much safer online.

Some may question why there are so many dubious scammers loitering around online, but it’s simple to see the attraction to the criminals who perform these actions. Bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is, car thieves steal cars because the opportunity is there, cyber criminals defraud internet users because of both of the above; the internet is full of money and opportunity.

In this short series I will hopefully arm you with the information to keep yourself safer online.

Types of Scams

There are many different types of scams out there; in this section I’ll list a few of the most common scams that are used to defraud people of money and services.

Unfortunately in this section I can’t name names or point fingers, but there are certain tools out there that offer to turn your computer back into its former glorious speedy self with a few simple clicks of their free program.

One of the worst culprits of this category other than the PC speed up tools are the tools designed for downloading and obtaining drivers, you have a yellow exclamation mark next to a ‘Generic UPnP Device’ in device manager so you take to Google to find a driver. The first results you stumble upon aren’t helpful and then suddenly out of nowhere you find this glorious program that promises to solve all of your driver related problems – with just a simple program!

You then download said program and it offers to clean up your computer or locate your drivers for free, usually it does the exact opposite. The program then starts to slow your computer down to a grinding halt. At which point it will probably then find errors that only the premium version of their application can fix, this is usually a nominal but small fee round about the £20 mark. You’ll purchase this service believing that it will fix all the problems but alas the software continues to tie down your system.

Usually with such software you have an option to uninstall it, if you’re lucky the software will just uninstall and be gone, however some of these packages have a nasty habit of digging their nails in and can often hold your computer to ransom - these scams are known as Ransomware and it’s said to be on the rise in 2013.

Ransomware doesn’t always tag itself onto the back of other scams, it can be a standalone scam in its own right. You spend a few hours on your computer browsing the internet, power it off only the next time you come to use your computer, it doesn’t boot correctly. You get into Windows but you’re presented with a window that takes up your entire screen, threatening legal action against you or worse yet it’s pretending to protect you. It will then ask for money in order to either drop the legal action or remove the malicious content.

Needless to say if and when you part with your hard earned, it’s going to come back again and again.


If you do ever find yourself having accidently installed any of the types of programs mentioned above, I strongly suggest a format and re-install of your operating system. If you can get in to back-up your data make sure you don’t back-up any executable files that may carry the infectious file, just back-up your documents, pictures and videos etc.

With regards to speeding up your computer, the best solution for that was given to you when you first purchased it, the re-installation disks. If ever you find your computer is slowly grinding to less than its usual self, back up your data and reinstall Windows. It will get your system back to its original speeds quickly and easily. Unless you have a hardware fault of course, in which case no software can cure that for you.

There’s one rule to ALWAYS remember when looking for drivers and that rule is; the manufacturer’s website will have the drivers for your product… for free!

The plain old nasty ransomware is usually accusing you of doing something illegal but offering to let you off if you make a payment, the law doesn’t work like that. I can’t remember the last time I watched Police, Camera, Action and saw a criminal being arrested and facing 3 to 4 years in prison for grand theft auto but offered a £200 fine to be let go on the spot.

In part two of this guide we’ll cover the how these programs can get onto your computer and ways to avoid ever having to meet a single on of them.