Cryptolocker – A Devious Virus

A File-Encrypting Virus

There’s a new type of “virus” making the rounds that you should be aware of and take some precautions to ensure you don’t lose precious data if you get.  The “Cryptolocker” virus is actually a tool for extortion. I encrypts, or “scrambles”, all the personal data on your in a way that it is literally impossible to unscramble (or “decrypt”) without a key.  Of course the author of the virus offers the key for a ransome of about $300, but whether you’ll get it after paying is questionable at best.

What To Do If You See This

The image below is a sample of the Cryptolocker trying to do its business.  At the point of seeing this message, it may actually be too late for  your data.  If you see this, power off your computer by pressing the power button and holding it in for at least 5 seconds or by pulling the power cable if it’s a desktop computer. If, at the point you see this message, your files are not actually encrypted (they probably are by now), interacting with the message in any way can only do more harm than good.  Turn it off and call your IT support person and tell them what happened.

cryptolocker picture

Best Protection Against This Virus

Backup, backup, backup!  Make triple sure that you have a backup of all the files in your My Documents, Desktop, and Favorites offsite or on a disk (hard disk, CD, DVD, thumbdrive, etc.) and it’s not connected to your computer after the backup.  The Cryptolocker virus will encrypt anything attached to your computer.  It may even attack files on your network, but I’ve not seen direct evidence of that yet.  The virus itself can be removed, but unencrypting your files is physically impossible without the key that was used to encrypt it to begin with.  To recover from this virus, your data will have to be restored from a backup.

But I have Antivirus. I’m Safe, Right?

That is one of the biggest myths in computerdom these days.  I’ve long held the opinion that “all antivirus stinks”.  Think of antivirus as an innoculation for small pox.  You can still get sick from some other virus personally, and so can your computer.  Antivirus helps to prevent some types of activities a virus might try, but it is not, and never has been, the blanket of protection that most folks perceive it as.  Its better to have antivirus installed than not, but know that it won’t protect you and you should tread as lightly as possible when browsing the internet to help protect your computer and data.

How To Get Infected

A philosophy that I hold, and has served me well personally, is to consider websites like you would places on earth.  If it’s hugely popular and caters to the masses, something like Times Square in NY city, you should expect danger; it’s liklely a target for “harvesting” your information and delivering unsavory data (ie: virus, spyware, etc.) to your computer.  Generally boring, low traffic sites could be like a small Tennessee town…less pick-pockets running around, therefore, less danger.  (keep in mind, this is my philosophy…you are not required to adopt it!).

Anywhere there are lots (or, in reality, any) advertisements, the potential for infection is higher.  The website you go to does not directly control the content of the advertisements they show.  If a bad guy wanted to distribute a virus to many websites, hack the advertising agency that’s delivering the ads automatically to dozens (hundreds or thousands) of websites.  Instant distribution system.  I’ve seen computers infected by going to Hotmail (a Microsoft website) after having been wiped out completely and restored to factory condition.  Five minutes after delivering the computer, the owner went ot Hotmail and got infected BEFORE he logged into check his mail.  He got infected by a virus delivered via the ads.

Bleak Subject

This is certainly not a happy story!  I can’t think of any positive spin to put on it and regret that it’s such a doom and gloom subject!  It is what it is, however, and preparation in the form of backups is the silver lining to any computer problem.  Be sure you’re on top of yours.

Cole Informatics offers managed backup services where we ensure that the data you want protected is actually being backed up AND able to be restored (that’s the real key…restoration!) when you need it. If you don’t have a solution or don’t know if your is working or not, give us a call and we’ll lend a hand to help you know where you stand.  Give us a call or email to  support@coleinformatics.com and we’ll help you know for sure.

Terry was able to create whatever I’ve envisioned and even restored most of our data during a major server crash in 2009. I appreciate the work Terry and his team does. On more than one occasion, they have bent over backwards to get what needs to be done completed. Terry is better than anyone I have seen; no one has come close to his professionalism and the expertise he and his company provide. I highly recommend Terry to anyone needing help with IT at their business.”

Computer Support
Henry Lamb, CEO & Founder, Sovereignty International and Freedom21

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