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Top Story: Hackers lock down the very people who are meant to keep you safe

Top Story: Hackers lock down the very people who are meant to keep you safe
photo courtesy of SHUTTERSTOCK

When it comes to your family, you're not going to let anyone put them in danger. Not if you can help it. But when you're not around to defend them, you can take comfort in knowing the police are a 911 call away.

In minutes, they'll be there to protect them. Even if the worst happens, though, and your family is the the victim of a crime, you know the criminal justice system will investigate it and eventually put the bad guy away.

Unfortunately, cybercriminals are making it extremely difficult to investigate crimes. Many police departments are being stymied by ransomware attacks that encrypt their systems.

Worse, the police departments are being compelled to pay hackers money to be able to access their own computers and criminal records. If the cops pay the ransom, the criminals will give them a way to decrypt, or unlock, those files.

You can imagine how this could affect you. What if hackers deleted records for open investigations? That destroyed evidence could free criminals and killers from prison. Or it could bring an investigation for a crime to a screeching halt. It's terrible to think about this, but it is already happening.

Last year, in fact, ransomware hackers deleted police records in Alabama and New Hampshire. They also targeted police departments in Maine  and several other states. We recently told you that the computer system at the Newark police department just outside New York City was shut down for a few days because of a ransomware attack.

We've told you that 2016 has been described as the Year of Ransomware. Other people call this the "ransomware epidemic." With good reason. In just the first three months of this year, ransomware hackers successfully stole $200 million from victims like you, hospitals, tech companies, and police departments. That's a tenfold increase over full-year 2015.

Police departments are being targeted because many of them are small and have outdated computer systems.

Good news: While you can't protect your local police department, you can prevent most ransomware attacks that target you.

First, some topnotch Internet security experts are starting to find ways to unlock your encrypted files without paying ransom. For instance, experts recently found a way to decrypt the CryptXXX ransomware (read about it here).

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Source: NBC News
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