French government issues advice on online ransomware

The French government has issued guidelines for what to do if your computer or portable device becomes infected with a “ransomware” virus and asks you for money to unblock it.

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Ransomware is a form of computer virus that renders your machine inoperable until you pay money via the virus screen, to “unblock it” and supposedly regain use of your computer or device.

It is usually spread via email attachments, including archives, programs, and images. It can also be activated if you visit an infected website.

Businesses and individuals can both be affected, and infection rates are said to be on the rise, having soared since 2015.

Should you fall victim to this kind of scam - known as both “ransomware” and “rançongiel” in French - government website advises you to:

  • Report the incident, including the type of ransomware software shown on your screen and/or that you believe to be in use, on the internet site
  • Report the incident to your local police station or gendarmerie.

Similarly, the international website can also offer free support and practical steps on how to unblock your computer and restore access to your files and photos (available in French and English).

It offers a form asking you to submit information on the virus in question, and it then offers possible solutions to your particular issue.

The website itself advises victims not to pay any amount to the ransomware, because “by sending your money to cybercriminals you’ll only confirm that ransomware works, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the decryption key you need in return”.

To avoid becoming a victim of ransomware in the first place, the government reminds users to install and update antivirus software on your computer.

It also advises that you use an anti-spam software for all communications, and do not open emails or attachments that appear suspicious, or that you do not recognise.

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