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Hackers target reputations through review sites

We love to travel, and when we do, we want everything just-so. Who doesn’t? But every now and then, the trip turns out poorly, and we want people to know.

Many people use sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor to leave a bad review, or go to Twitter to let folks know how frustrated they were that their meal was cold or their room had a broken air conditioner. After all, you want the restaurant or hotel or airline to fix it. And they want to, because their business relies on their good name.

You weren’t out to extort money. But that’s a tactic that hackers are starting to use. They’re threatening companies by targeting their reputations. Internet extortion schemes aren’t new, but this attack is different.

A lot of restaurants, hotels and other companies live off of their reputations, and sites like Yelp are very important to them. Now imagine being threatened with having your image ruined by a load of bad reviews unless you paid up.

What do they want? Bitcoins

For example, hackers recently threatened an online travel agency called CheapAir, saying they would destroy the company if it didn’t fork over 1.5 bitcoins, or about $10,000. Crooks like bitcoins because they can’t be traced.

Law enforcement experts say you should never pay somebody who’s blackmailing you — after all, they’re crooks, why would you trust them to stop after that payment?

Unfortunately for these companies, there’s not a lot they can do except let their customers and potential customers know what’s happening.

What to do if you’re being threatened

Businesses and regular folks alike are always being threatened with with the revelation of damaging information. Most of these are fake, so don’t pay.

But ransomware is different, and can delete your entire system. You need to take precautionary steps. Here are suggestions that will help:

  • Back up data regularly –  This is the best way to recover your critical data if your computer is infected with ransomware.
  • Make sure your backups are secure – Do not connect your backups to computers or networks that they are backing up.
  • Do NOT enable macros – You should never download PDF, Word or Excel files attached to unsolicited emails to begin with. If you do open one of these documents and it says that you need to turn on macros, close the file and delete it immediately.
  • Never open risky links in emails – Don’t open attachments from unsolicited emails, it could be a phishing scam. Ransomware can infect your gadget through malicious links found in phishing emails. Can you spot one? Take our phishing IQ test to find out.
  • Have strong security software – This will help prevent the installation of ransomware on your gadget.

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