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Don’t Let Your Data Be Held Hostage
That’s not a catchy title — it’s a warning. There’s a dangerous Trojan called Cryptolocker that encrypts the user data residing on your computer (irreplaceable documents, photos, music, etc.). Then you’re sent a message. It reads something like this: “Pay $500 within 2 days to recover your files. Otherwise, your documents will be lost forever.” Some people have paid the extortionists. I don’t want you to be one of them.

How Your Computer Is Infected
By unknowingly downloading nefarious links. For instance, you might get an e-mail telling you that your browser, Chrome, needs an update. Or, you might receive a message telling you that a package is being held at UPS or FedEx, or that your plane tickets are waiting for you at the Delta counter. In every instance, you’re instructed to click on the link provided. Don’t.

How To Tell If Links Are Legitimate
Hover over any link. At the bottom of your screen (generally at the lower left) you’ll see the full URL displayed in a light gray box. If the address doesn’t match the message or if you’re the least bit skeptical, don’t click.

Practice This Step
Try the above right now. Hover over any of the links on this page. Find the URL. See how it matches the content mentioned in the articles. Get in the habit of always looking at site URLs before you click.

Good News
In the process of having this article prepared, I came across Krebs On Security. It reports that several security firms joined together and now have a free online service to help people recover their encrypted files. For more information, see decryptolocker.com.