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An overview of "ransomware" and its part in rising cybercrime

Almost everyone in America is connected these days via social media and online interaction. Despite the rise in use of new and innovative ways to communicate, such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, most people continue to use email as one of their primary forms of communication. And, anyone who uses email knows that they have to avoid spam - useless emails that can clutter an inbox with sales pitches and advertising. But, there is something else out there that many of our readers may not have heard about: ransomware.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation describes ransomware as just another scam in a long line of attempts at cybercrime. In short, ransomware is a type of malware that will usually freeze a person's computer screen with some type of official-looking warning that the person has done something illegal. This can happen when a person opens an email, or when a person visits a certain type of website. The pop-up warnings will usually say that, due to the person's online activity, their computer files have been encrypted, and that a large fine must be paid to decrypt the files.

Law enforcement agencies in New Jersey and throughout the country have increased the amount of resources they devote to policing these types of computer crimes. That may help many people who are the victims of these types of scams, but it could also put innocent computer users under a cloud of suspicion if they are unnecessarily targeted in an investigation.

The more people learn about the elements to these types of crimes and how they need to be proven in court, the better equipped they will be to defend themselves if an arrest is made.

Source: fbi.gov, "Ransomware on the Rise," Accessed Aug. 16, 2015

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