This morning I listened to a very thought-provoking discussion on Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” about how to deal with phistspearing or the act of pirating of personal files on the Internet. While somewhat aware of the problem where offshore hackers break into personal computers and hold their contents to ransom, I wasn’t, until now, apprised as to its global extent. Over the past year, the volume of reported cases has literally grown ten-fold into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Stories of people, small companies and public enterprises being held ransom for thousands of dollars in order to get their precious files unlocked is nothing short of heart-rending. Talk about frustration! Click on a rogue link and your life can be put on hold for days on end as you try to negotiate a hefty ransom in bitcoins. Maybe this is a time to outlaw this currency to begin shutting down this illicit activity. From a practical perspective, my wife and I have taken reasonable steps to prevent this potentially scary situation happening to us, touch wood. All our financial records are stored on a computer that is not connected to the Internet; my blogging is done through an internet provider that is protected from being compromised; our pictures are backed up on an external hard-drive and DVDs; and all bank records are contained within a secured banking site. Now, I am not saying that such a criminal hack can’t happen to us, but at least we have no reason to yield to any extortion attempts. We just don’t have anything to want to trade for, so a pox on the blighters wherever they hail from. Oh, by the way, do not click on strange e-mails that demand your immediate attention. For that reason, I try to limit any surfing to websites that I can trust: banner ads are definitely out. Being free of this problem means being forearmed to the point of knowing the nature of the problem and taking the steps to circumvent it before it gets a foothold. Besides, these hackers are likely smalltime criminals from eastern Europe who are only opportunistically trying to eke out a living on the Internet, albeit dishonestly with the help of an exploiter kit. Like another form of recent piracy off the Horn of Africa, this equally nefarious form will run its course once technology improves to bring its perpetrators to justice.