CryptoLocker … SERIOUS BAD NEWS!
One of the nastiest pieces of malware in a long time is striking computers all over the world. You could be next.
CryptoLocker belongs to a family of malware known as “ransomware.” But unlike other forms of ransomware, which lock up your computer and prevent you from using it until you pay the criminal’s ransom demand, CryptoLocker leaves your computer functional. Instead in locks up all your files with military-grade encryption. The only way you can recover you files is to pay the ransom (reportedly $300.00) within 72 hours. If you don’t pay within that time period, the encryption key is destroyed and your files are gone for good.
CryptoLocker locks up everything: your word processor files, spreadsheets, financial records, music files, all your treasured pictures. Everything … it’s all gone, lost forever, unless you pay up.
This one is really scary. No computer repairman is going to be able to solve this for you. An antivirus program should be able to remove CryptoLocker from your computer, but it cannot recover your files. Once your files are encrypted, you have no recourse but to pay off the cyber criminals and then HOPE they respond to release your files. At least one victim reports that once the ransom was paid, the files did begin to decrypt.
How You Get Infected
The only good news, if you can call it that, is that the malware is delivered in kind of an old-fashioned way, as an attachment to email. The attachment usually looks like a common zip file or pdf document. If you click the attachment, an executable file is launched, and you are toast!
In my computer security class I preach, “Never open an email attachment unless you have personal knowledge of what is being sent.” YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
How to Protect Yourself
The only way to recover your valuable files if you become infected with CryptoLocker (other than by paying the ransom) is to have a current backup. First you must remove the CryptoLocker malware with a good anti-virus program; then restore your files from a recent backup. Your backup must be a stand-alone snapshot of your entire computer system. Backup systems that constantly make synchronized copies of your files won’t work, because the synchronized backup will have overwritten your good files with the encrypted ones before you know you have a problem. Also, to prevent access to your backup files by CryptoLocker, backup drives should be disconnected form your computer and your network when not in use.
For more information on CryptoLocker, see the online article: Nasty new malware locks your files forever, unless you pay ransom.