CryptoLocker Virus : Don’t be Held Hostage

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It all starts innocently enough – a non-descript email in your inbox. Perhaps it’s another product feature or newsletter you mistakenly signed up for? Click. Suddenly, something doesn’t seem right. In obscene, screaming font you read:

“Your personal files have been encrypted!”

Say hello to CryptoLocker – a virus that’s quickly becoming one of the most sinister pieces of malware on the internet.

What is CryptoLocker?

CryptoLocker is a name that sounds spooky, but it’s what it does that’s downright terrifying. Also referred to as “ransomware”, the virus works by holding computers or personal files hostage until
the owner pays a ransom.Cryptolocker virus

The virus accomplishes this by encrypting the user’s files, rendering them unable to be opened or entirely inaccessible. This is notably different from viruses that are only designed to phish sensitive information. CryptoLocker is far more damaging because its primary concern isn’t your data; it wants your money.

If having the entirety of computer or server contents held hostage wasn’t enough of a problem already, Crypto Locker goes a step further – bullying victims into participating through an unbending ultimatum: pay up in 100 hours, or lose everything forever.

Attempting to remove or damage the offending software activates a kill switch designed to immediately destroy your data. Let’s just say it’s a pretty tough position to find oneself in.

How do you get it?

CryptoLocker and other ransomware are particularly devious because they’re often well disguised. They may be hidden in emails that are created to look like they come from reputable companies like FedEx or UPS. The email tells the user to verify shipping information by clicking on an embedded link. This is how the virus is downloaded and gains access to the computer.

Another way CryptoLocker hides itself in emails is in the form of embedded images like JPEGs, or in common attachments like PDFs or Microsoft Office files. When the user downloads or opens the attachment, the virus is activated. When the countdown starts, little can be done.

What’s at stake?

What’s at stake? Well, quite literally everything. While losing one’s personal data forever is a tough pill to swallow, for companies the prospect is absolutely unthinkable. The ransoms can vary in amount based on their intended targets. A single computer might cost several hundred dollars to decrypt, while a whole network might be held hostage for thousands – even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Service downtime can lead to further financial loss and subsequent difficulties in the weeks and months after. Additionally, an incident like this can severely damage carefully cultivated reputations with partners and clients alike.

How can you protect yourself?

“An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure.” Basically, it’s the little things we do or don’t do that can help us avoid BIG problems. Here are the two most important things you can do to avoid becoming the latest victim of Crypto Locker:

Stranger DangerCryptolocker virus

If you receive an email and don’t recognize the person who sent it, the wisest thing to do is to delete it immediately.
Don’t open it and definitely don’t download anything included. If the email seems to be from a reputable company, but you don’t remember ordering or signing up for anything, do not follow any embedded links – delete it ASAP.

Get Some Backup

Even the most robust computer system or firewall needs some backup when times get tough. Conduct regular backups of your data to ensure you’ll always have critical files on hand if things go south.

Cloud9 offers you a fresh start.

An even more effective solution than manual backups are automated, rolling backups with Cloud9. Not only do we provide seamless integration of your favorite applications in the cloud, we safeguard files and information that are critical to your ongoing operations.

Ready to safeguard your data through Cloud Technology? Contact us today.


Alex Chousmith

All stories by: Alex Chousmith

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