Warning: ‘Ransomware’ online scheme hits Hawaii

A frightening trend in online schemes has hit Hawaii, and according to a computer expert, it shows no signs of stopping.

The so-called “ransomware” scam starts like this: You get an email that looks like its from a major retailer.

But beware: the email isn’t from a legitimate business. And if you click the link provided, it will immediately encrypt all your computer’s files and any other files your computer can view on a network.

This is especially damaging if you’re a business — imagine having all your pictures, accounting data, documents, everything under someone else’s lock and key. Each day that passes, the ransom doubles or triples.

If you decide not to pay it at all within four days, all your files are erased.

Attila Seress’ company, SOS Hawaii, saw six Oahu cases in 2014 that all involved businesses. “A few of them gave up,” he said. “Some paid the ransom and were able to get their files back. Others paid and did not get their files back.”

And Seress expects this to trend higher in the near future.

So how can you protect yourself from “ransomware?” If you’re not sure if an email is legit, don’t click on the links, and visit the company’s website or directly contact them instead.

It’s also a good idea to backup your computer files and make sure your anti-virus software is up to date.

If you have a consumer concern, or if you’re interested in becoming an Action Line volunteer, call 591-0222 weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or send an email to actionline@khon2.com.

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