I am sure you have heard of businesses paying money to organized crime thugs to ensure that their businesses don’t get burned down or that no one meets with any untimely physical misfortune. Will you or someone you know end up paying “rent” ($20-$100 a month) to digital mobsters in the near future? You may be if you are the victim of ransomware.


Ransomware is a type of malicious software that prevents or limits access to files, data, and systems by using encryption which scrambles your files and makes them unreadable. The victim will not have access\control of their own device until they pay the ransom amount the hacker is asking for. Once you pay the ransom, the hacker will send you the decryption key so you can unscramble your files. Cryptowall is a very popular type of ransomware. In 2015 the creators of Cryptowall made $325 million  from U.S. victims alone.

I originally wrote about ransomware in 2013. Ransomware has definitely been on the rise in the past 3 years. The bad guys seem to change their focus every year. There are years when the focus is on attacking and holding the files of businesses, organizations and government departments hostage. In other years the hackers decide to focus on everyday computer users.

Recently, a group of security experts got together at Georgetown Law School. The panel discussion was titled, “High Tech Crimes of Tomorrow.” They predicted in 2020 it will be customary for some technology users to have to pay rent each month so the digital mobsters will not attack their devices and leave them alone. I am not just talking about paying someone so they will not hold your computer, phone or tablet hostage. As technology becomes more integrated into our lives (The Internet of Things) with smart houses, smart cars and smart appliances, the more likely some members of our society will end up paying these hackers to:

  • Make sure they don’t take over our security cameras.

  • Make sure our cars start and that the brakes work.

  • Keep the smart locks on our doors  LOCKED.

  • Stay away from our thermostats. Can you imagine a hacker remotely turning your AC or heat up and down or just turning it off?

  • Make sure they don’t open our garage door.

Right now most companies that are creating smart consumer devices are more focused on being the first to market instead of focusing on security. More and more so-called smart devices are connecting to the Internet. Please know that just because these devices or appliances are smart does not make them secure. Hackers love it when more and more devices with security holes get connected to the Internet.


  • Insist on and only buy well-made products that are safe and secure.  Do your research before buying a product and ask questions. One main question to ask is, “Can this product be updated\patched when a security vulnerability is discovered? Also ask, “If the product can be patched, who does the work, how difficult is it to get it updated and is there a cost involved?” Do you use a wireless mouse or keyboard? Have you heard of MouseJacking? Click on the link at the end of this article and watch the video about how your computer can be compromised via your wireless mouse\keyboard and how many of these devices CAN’T be updated\patched to make them secure.

  • Use secure passwords.

  • Don’t use the same password for everything.

  • Keep a constant back up of all of your files. However, make sure the device you copy your files to is not always physically connected to your computer. Most ransomware today is designed to not only encrypt your local hard drive, but search for any attached devices like a USB drive or external hard drive and locks that data as well.

  • Be careful opening email attachments.

  • Be careful clicking on links in emails from people you don’t know…even people you know.

  • Keep your operating system updated.

  • Keep your email, browser and antivirus programs updated.

The more things we connect to the Internet the more I think about what an old technology guy told me years ago. He said, “Just because you can do something does not mean you should and everything comes with a price. You have to decide if the cost outweighs the benefit.”







Stay Safe,



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