Preventing Cybercrime

Written by Bill Pfund, Esq.


In addition to being annoying, computer pop-ups or notifications are often the first step a cyber-criminal uses to victimize unsuspecting users. Be cautious of any notification or pop-up messages. Examples include emails that say you have to download something in order to see a greeting card or a message that says your computer is infected. Don’t click on anything in these pop-ups, including the “x” inside the pop-up itself. Your best response to remove the pop-up safely is to hold down three keys “CTL+ALT+DEL” to exit a pop-up safely on a Windows computer. Use “CMD+ Option+Escape” on a Mac. Then run your antivirus software to see if there is any malware on your computer that caused the pop-up.


Be careful where you click. Don’t click on links or attachments in e-mails from an unknown sender, a suspicious sender or emails that don’t make sense. Remember that a friend’s email account can become compromised and that attackers can “spoof” someone’s email address to appear to be from anyone they choose. Remember-don’t react emotionally to an email. Pause and think before clicking. Hackers count on this emotional response to overcome logic and force us into making bad cyber-decisions.


Ransomware is a form of malware that restricts access to data by encrypting files or locking computer screens. The criminal behind the ransomware infection then attempts to extort money from the victim by asking for a “ransom”, usually in the form of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or in the form of the gift cards from sources like iTunes whereby the cyber-criminal asks the victim to scratch off the back of the gift card and email the card codes in exchange for access to data.

How it begins.

In a ransomware attack, victims open an email addressed to them and may click on an attachment that appears legitimate, like an invoice or notification of a missed delivery. If the victim clicks on a link in that email, it may cause malicious ransomware code to install on their computer.

What happens next.

Once the infection is present, the malware begins encrypting files on a victim’s computer. Users are generally not aware they have been infected until they can no longer access their files or until they begin to see computer messages advising them of the attack and the demand for a ransom payment in exchange for the decryption key.

How to stay safe.

Be careful where you click. Always backup the content on your computer. If you are infected by ransomware, you can have your system wiped clean and then restore your files from your backup. Because ransomware can infect all hard drives, disconnect the backup drive when not in use or use cloud backup.

The bad guys are getting creative with hybrid giftcard / CEO Fraud scams. There is a campaign underway where they are impersonating an executive and urgently ask for gift cards to be bought for customers. The numbers need to be emailed or texted to the boss, after they are physically bought at stores. Never comply with request like that and always confirm using a live phone call to make sure this is not a scam. Sometimes it’s OK to say “no” to the boss!




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