There’s new malware out in the wild now and it’s one of the nastiest ever created. Cryptolocker is a form of ransomware: software that locks you out of something until you give it what it wants (usually money). It is currently being spread via an email attachment. What makes Cryptolocker so potent is its sound use of cryptographic techniques. Similar to the same technologies that keep us safe while purchasing products online or using online banking, Cryptolocker has employed them to encrypt all your files and take you hostage.
If you receive this malware it will scan every drive on your PC (hard drives, flash drives and even network shares) for various file types that are usually user created materials (pdf/word docs/excel/pictures/etc) and encrypt them leaving you with nothing but a notice about the foul act it performed (see below). It gives you around 3 days to pay up or it deletes their side of the encryption key.
Sadly, there isn’t much you can do once you receive this malware. You cannot remove it like a normal virus without losing all the files it encrypted putting you in a lose/lose situation. Reports have been published saying even if you do pay up the $300 they request, their decryption programing sometimes doesn’t work.
There are a few ways to help protect you against this however:
Don’t click any link that presents itself to you:
- If a website was compromised, it may send you links to click that will install malware on your computer. Don’t just click the link/boxes to make them go away, read them first.
Very careful examine links sent to you via email, even if it’s from someone you know:
- Viruses and malware from randomly clicking links in emails is probably the top way people get infected. The evil-doers will often try to make you click a link that looks familiar (instead of amazon.com its amazn.com or some other variant) that leads to a fake website or the installer for the virus. Even if the email comes from someone you know, they could be already infected and the virus is using them to spread itself.
Backup your files regularly:
- Backing up your files is great normal maintenance for your computer. Just like hardware failure, recovering after a nasty virus can be much easier if you have a recent backup ready to deploy. If you don’t like to remember to do a backup, there are many services, such as Carbonite, that will automatically do it for you.