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How much is everything on your computer worth to you?  About $300?  The criminals behind a new malware program are betting on it.

The Federal Trade Commission, the FBI and other federal agencies are warning consumers and businesses about “Cryptolocker,” a malware program that holds the files on your computer for ransom, and doesn’t allow you to access them until you pay up. Even then, there’s no guarantee. It’s essentially extortion, with all your personal documents, photos, and files at risk.

Cryptolocker is spread mostly through email and “drive-by” downloads. The email might look like a routine message from a legitimate company, like a tracking notice from a shipping company. If you click on the hyperlink in the email, Cryptolocker encrypts everything on your hard drive and in your shared folders. When the job is done, you get a “ransom note” demanding payment via Bitcoin or some other anonymous payment method. The criminals behind this malware say they’ll give you the encryption key if you pay, but they’re hardly trustworthy. And there’s no other way to unlock your files. For tips about how to protect your business from Cryptolocker, read Lock, stock, and peril.

Computer security experts say the best way to minimize the damage Cryptolocker can do is to back up your computer files often. There are other good computer security habits that can help you avoid downloading Cryptolocker and other malware, too. To learn more, read Back, back, back it up, and watch Protect Your Computer from Malware.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

Contact Information

Frank Dorman
Office of Public Affairs