CryptoLocker – What you need to know
CryptoLocker is a new virus that takes your data hostage and is only retrievable if a ransom is paid. This type of virus is known as ransomware, and CryptoLocker has become a prominent threat for Windows users in the UK in the latter stages of the year.
CryptoLocker, and most ransomware, works by sneaking into your computer system, usually disguised as an attachment in an email. Once the attachment is opened, the virus encrypts files on your computer – this means that the data is converted into code, preventing any unauthorised access. When the encryption is complete, the virus deletes itself and a message will pop up saying that their data is being held hostage and will only be returned back to them if they pay a price.
What makes CryptoLocker especially dangerous is the fact that it doesn’t just encrypt files from your hard drive, but from every drive connected to your computer – even your servers and backups. It encrypts every file it can lay its hands on.
You’re given payment options and told that any attempt to stop the virus will result in the destruction of the only key capable of decrypting the data. There’s usually a countdown set for 72 hours – once the timer reaches 0, your data is destroyed forever.
So how do you prevent a CryptoLocker attack?
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, NEVER open any email attachment, file or link from somebody you don’t know or trust. No matter how friendly, convincing or professional the email may seem, it is NOT worth the risk.
You should also regularly take backups of your data onto an external hard drive and remove it from the computer when it’s not in use. As well as this, consider using online backup services like Dropbox and Google Drive – they allow you to access older versions of your files, meaning they may be recovered.
Be vigilant, use your common sense and backup regularly!