In the past few months a new variant of the “ransomware” virus has become quite prevalent on the internet. “Ransomware” is designed to do exactly what the name implies. Once a user unwittingly opens a file, usually from a malicious or unknown email, the program begins to encrypt almost every type of file located in your computer. This virus goes after MS Office, Adobe, even image files. Upon successfully encrypting all your important documents, the software then tries to extort you for money. Although the screenshot above is small and difficult to read, the summary of the text is plain and simple. The virus gives you a timeframe of 72 hours, where you can either pay the ransom price or all your files will be lost forever. The authors of the malware have even set up an online portal where infected users can pay and retrieve the decryption key from. The primary way users have been infected by this malware is through the opening of email attachments.
While new variations of malware continually pop up and change, the primary means of protecting ones computer has not. As an end user, being aware of basic security precautions is no different than looking both ways before crossing the street. A new email arrived, who is it from and what is the subject? A letter from UPS about shipping invoices is attached, have you bought anything recently? Taking a few seconds to double-check the sender of an email attachment can save you and your computer from headaches, hassle, and money-grubbing viruses. While anti-virus software is a good starting spot, malicious computer programs targeting website visitors have become more popular lately. Taking precautions while browsing online will dramatically reduce your chances of encountering these headaches as well. When visiting sites such as Facebook or a popular news site such as ArsTechnica, be cautious about clicking any advertisements. Some of these sites inadvertently host “drive-by” malware, which can infect your computer without any user interaction. Although Cryptolocker is most commonly launched in email, there are a few cases of websites serving infected ads.
Staying conscientious of what you click on, open and read will keep your computer clean and more importantly running smoothly.