Should You Be Worried about nRansom Attacks? Well, Yes and No.

Ransomware attacks have taught the cybersecurity community an important lesson: paying the ransom in no way means you’re going to be released from the situation. In fact, it could have the opposite effect: you’re now a scammer’s cash cow because of your willingness to pay.

A new ransomware attack made headlines last week, despite the fact that ransomware infections have already been on the rise for quite some time. This one is different, though: instead of encrypting your files until you pay the fee, nRansom actually locks your computer until you send the perpetrators nude photos of yourself. Only after the photos are received and the hackers have somehow verified you are the person in those photos, will they supposedly send you the unlock code.

The message on your screen might even tell you that your photos will be sold on the internet.

Here’s the thing about this horrific situation: it isn’t real. More accurately, nRansom does exist and people’s computers have been infected, but it doesn’t actually lock up your computer. It’s the cyber equivalent of a bad guy in a comedy sketch sticking his hand in his jacket pocket and pretending he has a gun in order to mug you.

This threat is actually just a screen locker, meaning you can’t get to anything else on your computer. You can’t close it out, but you can use hotkeys on your keyboard to work around it. If you get infected with nRansom, all you have to do is click “control-alt-delete” to open your Task Manager, then tell nRansom to stop running. Once you do that, however, you do have to remove it like any other malicious software, which is where a PC cleaner or your anti-virus software comes in. A recent article from Naked Security contains more information on the threat and how to remove it, but be warned, it contains screenshots of profane language that the software displays.

Fortunately, if you have an up-to-date anti-virus software title installed and running, nRansom might not be able to install itself in the first place. That right there should be enough reason for all tech users to invest in protocols that block malicious threats.

So, if nRansom isn’t really that big a threat, what’s so bad about it? The warning message and the screen lock look very real, and the wrong person could fall for it. This is especially a concern for younger individuals who might be afraid of speaking up after accidentally infecting their expensive device. It’s more important than ever to talk to your children about safe internet use in order to avoid these kinds of threats, but also about how to handle a situation like this if it ever comes up.

Sextortion, which is a component of nRansom, has only hit the widespread consciousness in the past few years, but it’s a very real threat to people of any age. In those cases, a simple behavior like downloading a virus or innocently sending out a racy photograph could lead to a constant barrage of threats to expose the victim. There have even been reported cases of suicide when the demands for more pictures or money became too dire. The only recourse for parents is to help their children know what to do to avoid this kind of situation, and then let them know they can always speak up for help once something like nRansom or sextortion has occurred.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Mobile Wallets Aren’t the Wave of the Future…Yet.

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