FBI Phoenix
Brooke Brennan and Kevin Smith
(623) 466-1999
March 23, 2021

FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Ransomware

PHOENIX, AZ—The FBI Phoenix Field Office is warning the public about ransomware attacks in this month’s Tech Tuesday. Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, that prevents you from accessing your computer files, systems, or networks and demands you pay a ransom for their return.

Scammers will often send ransomware through email phishing campaigns. You can unknowingly download ransomware onto a computer by opening an email attachment, clicking an ad, following a link, or even visiting a website that’s embedded with malware.

Tips to protect yourself from ransomware attacks:

  • Educate yourself, and, for companies, your employees. Learn how to spot and avoid phishing lures.
  • Use multi-factor authentication where possible.
  • Disable unused remote access/RDP ports and monitor remote access/RDP logs.
  • Make sure you are backing up your data often and that you are backing it up to an off-line source. Ransomware attacks can move quickly— infecting any connected device or on-line storage account. Your back-ups must be segregated and off-line from normal operations.
  • Make sure that all devices on your network are using the most current and patched versions of operating systems and applications.
  • Make sure anti-virus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and run regular scans.
  • Use a pop-up blocker. If you get a pop-up or other message that says you are infected, disconnect the device from the Internet and your network immediately to try to prevent the spread.
  • Filter out emails with .exe attachments and set your computer to show hidden file extensions. Ransomware is often delivered as a file with more than one file extension such as example.pdf.exe.
  • Have strong passwords and don’t use the same passwords for everything.
  • Don’t open attachments in unsolicited emails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited email, even if you think it looks safe. Instead, close out the email and go to the organization’s website directly.

The FBI recommends never paying the ransom, as there is no guarantee that the scammer will send you the decryption key. Beyond that, the money you pay may be used to fund organized crime activity or acts of terrorism while encouraging future criminal activity by these cyber thieves.

If you believe you’ve been the victim of a ransomware scheme or other cyber fraud activity, please contact FBI Phoenix at (623)466-1999. Victims are also highly encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at ic3.gov.

For more information on ransomware and malware scams and how you can protect yourself, visit https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/ransomware.