Anna Gragert
December 01, 2015 5:27 pm

Did you know that a virus can actually hold your smartphone for ransom? Yeah, neither did we, because that sounds like something out of a 21st-century nightmare.

According to the Better Business Bureau, this is how it goes down: you’re casually using the Internet on your phone, looking at pictures of cute puppies and reading cool stories and what not, when – BAM! – the browser unexpectedly freezes. At first, you think it’s just a natural occurrence (which is what the virus wants you to think), but then a pop-up appears. It reads, “Warning IOS – Crash Report. Due to a third party application your phone iOS crashed.”

The warning then urges you to call a number so that customer support can address the problem and fix your phone. So, you call the number and someone offers to fix your phone… for $60! The worst part is that you actually have to pay to have your phone unlocked by “customer support.” (Not cool, virus. Not cool.)

Luckily, the National Cyber Security Alliance has some tips for people who want to avoid this crazy scam. First of all, they advise that we keep all of our devices protected, updated, and secured with a password. Before you download a new app, you should always make sure to read the app’s privacy policy to see exactly what the app can access on your phone. As for Wi-Fi, the NCSA recommends that you work from a secure network – especially when you’re conducting business or banking online. Lastly, we should all follow this wisdom: when in doubt, don’t respond to people who may/may not be a scammer.

And if you follow the above advice and still find yourself with a ransom-wielding pop-up, stay calm! According to ZDNet, here’s what you should do: immediately put your device on Airplane Mode. Next, go to Settings > Safari > tap Clear History and Website Data. You can then close Safari by pressing twice on the Home button and swiping up to close the app. Once that’s done, you can safely exit Airplane Mode and restart Safari.

You can also proactively block pop-ups by going to Settings > Safari > and the Block Pop-ups switch.

While ransomware sounds like it could somehow be incorporated into a movie plot, it’s definitely not something we want to deal with in real life. So please excuse us while we keep our phones safe and our sanity safer.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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