PSSST – I’ve got a great deal for you – FREE UPGRADE TO WINDOWS 10! (Yes, it’s true, but don’t get the scammy one!)
If you got the email (above), would you open the file to receive a free upgrade to Windows 10? After all, it is Microsoft’s newest operating system. It is going to be free from Microsoft Updates to everyone who currently has patched Windows versions 7 or 8, and you may have seen that in the news.
To make the scammers’ email sound all-the-more enticing, it assures you that all your files and applications will be waiting for you after the upgrade – great! It also says there is no need to back up all of your important documents and pictures! (SPOILER ALERT: Always back up your files before any major change, just in case) And it’s FREE! … . But only for a little while. Don’t’ miss out. Upgrade today! Then (this sounds suspiciously like offering candy to a child) comes the clincher: YOU don’t have to wait your turn like you do with the official Windows Update!
If you had opened the attached file (above), the drive on your computer would be encrypted with a code that you can’t crack unless you pay in bitcoins*. The scammers do provide a screen with the ransom payment information and a time limit of 96 hours. The other alternative is to wipe and re-load everything. If you have a backup, it is at least possible to rebuild it. (3-2-1 Backups, TrendLabs Security blog)
We tell children to beware of strangers, yet we all can be guilty of trusting someone we don’t know with personal and financial data. One study showed that over half of people will give their user id, email address and password to a complete stranger for a free candy bar!
Lessons learned so far in 2015:
- Not Microsoft, Apple, nor any other humongous company is going to call or email you personally to give away anything free.
- Millions and millions of credit cards, information records and people’s hard-earned cash has been stolen, that have been reported.
- Many losses or breaches of security have not been reported or disclosed by the hacked companies because reporting is not mandatory for small businesses.
- Watch your accounts and report anything that is not your purchase to the credit card company immediately. Set up purchase alerts to go to your phone or email if possible.
- Back up important files to secure places. Personally, I back up all important files to secure Internet storage, a DVD and to a personal USB. The DVD goes into my firebox, USB is quickly accessible and the Internet storage is “off-site” from my house.
- Define which are your “important files.” What is on your computer that is impossible to replace? What would be very difficult to replace? (Pictures, financials, etc.)
In conclusion, the bad guys are always out there. Protect your personal information. Remember the old adage:
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
On the lighter side, have you seen the commercials for Windows version 10 with the adorable toddlers? Its message: “The future starts now.”
P.S. I have received my Windows 10 upgrade at home, and it went smoothly! It installed overnight, and so far I have not found anything missing or non-operational. Microsoft even gave back the Start button!
*Bitcoins are a way to pay for things instantly and internationally without giving the seller your credit card or bank information. There are Bitcoin exchanges around the world where you can trade cash for bitcoin or bitcoin for cash. More at https://www.bitcoin.com/en/