How to free an iPad that’s been taken for ransom

Q: In a column you wrote last August, you said that there was a fix available for ransomware attacks, in which a hacker on the Internet locks your computer and won’t release it unless you pay a ransom. My iPad suffered a ransomware attack, and I can’t use my Safari Web browser. The hacker is demanding payment, but I won’t do that. Any suggestions?

Luís Gaspar, Lisbon, Portugal

A: You can regain the use of your iPad, but in some cases its data will be lost.

Ransomware attacks started appearing on the iPad and iPhone in 2014. But hackers took a different approach with the Apple devices than they do with a PC. On a PC, a ransomware attack encrypts your files, rendering them inaccessible unless you pay the hacker to unencrypt them. There has been some success in combating these attacks, which is what I wrote about last August. In the iPad/iPhone attack, the hacker locks your Web browser or your device rather than using encryption — problems that are somewhat easier to fix.

In the milder iPad and iPhone attack, the hacker locks your device’s Safari Web browser and demands money to release it. The solution is to clear the browser (see by forcing it to close and then, in settings, clicking “Clear History and website Data.”

In the more serious attack, the hacker locks your device by exploiting the Find My iPad or Find My iPhone security feature, which allows an iPad or iPhone owner to remotely lock a lost or stolen device. In the ransomware scam, the hacker remotely locks your iPad to prevent you from using it.

If this has happened, you can take your iPad to an Apple dealer to get it unlocked, but the process will erase the device’s data. This won’t be a problem if you’ve previously backed up your data in Apple’s iCloud or on a computer; just reload the data after the iPad has been unlocked. But if you haven’t backed up, the data is lost.

To protect against a recurrence, change your Apple ID password, which the hacker might know. To turn off the find function, see

Q: The keyboard on our Windows 8.1 Toshiba Satellite laptop has suddenly quit working. My husband, who needs the PC for business, is using the on-screen virtual keyboard, but it’s very time consuming. Is there anything we can do besides buy a new PC?

Denise Wilson-Krueger, Toledo, Ohio

A: Others have reported this problem, which is apparently caused by a flawed Microsoft Windows update. For most users, the solution is to use System Restore to return the PC’s settings to the way they were on an earlier date (for Windows 8.1, see Alternatively, the same website explains how to “refresh your PC without affecting your files,” a way of returning a PC’s software to its original condition.

To prevent a recurrence, turn off automatic updates (for Windows 8.1, see

Contact Steve Alexander at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488-0002; email