There is a new threat that is literally holding Facebook and LinkedIn users hostage.  This threat is a new type of Ransomware called ImageGate.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a kind of malware that encrypts the files on your computer, and demands a ransom to unlock the data. Users are faced with the choice of losing their data, or paying the attackers. Ransomware has been the biggest computer threat of 2016. Many security experts believe it is set to increase exponentially during 2017, due to using new methods of distributing the Ransomware.

How does Ransomware work?

Have you ever zipped up a file to make it smaller so you could send it to someone? That is similar to what Ransomware does when it encrypts your files. Your files are put inside of a special type of password protected file and it makes the unreadable, unless you have the password. Here is the hard part.

What does this have to do with Facebook?

This ImageGate exploit allows the hacker to add a piece of code to the information contained in an image file. This image is then loaded to Social Networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. When you click on the image in Facebook it asks you to download the picture to view it. When you download the picture it runs the script contained in the image, which starts going through your files encrypting your Pictures, Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets and other types of files that they are targeting. Now your picture of your kids first Christmas has been replaced with a file that you can't open, but there is a message attached that tells you to pay the ransom if you want your files back.

How do I protect myself?

Be very careful while using Facebook or LinkedIn if any thing seems to be behaving differently Don't download files from Facebook....Ever Always think before downloading a file from anywhere Always have good Anti-Virus Always have a backup Use Facebook from your phone or tablet - there is usually fewer files to lose on your phone or tablet

Can I Get Ransomware other ways?

Ransomware has historically been spread via email, but we are starting to see occurrences using Social Media, Infected Ads, and Infected Websites. This is what has the security experts concerned that it will soon turn into an epidemic.

I have Anti-Virus, so why do I need to worry about Ransomware?

Don't get caught in the trap having a false sense of security because you have anti-virus. Most anti-virus products don't detect or stop Ransomware. These 2 reasons are why Ransomware is so dangerous. Technically, Ransomware is not a virus. It does't install anything or change any settings. It just runs a script that encrypts your files. There are some anti-virus vendors such as BitDefender which have developed what they call Ransomware Vaccine. This vaccine disables some of the common methods of running the scripts.

In Summary

Ransomware is a real and very scary threat to your information. You should:

  • Be cautious
  • Don't download anything unless you are 100% sure that you need it
  • Use your phone or tablet for accessing Facebook or LinkedIn

I am sure that most of us will at some point be on Facebook in the coming days and weeks. Please be careful while you are online during this holiday season. You don't want to have all of your files held hostage just so you can see a video of the dancing elves.



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