Better Business Bureau: Phishing may leave you on the hook

October 24, 2013 

Scary malware may be coming to your computer. This one is more terrifying than any virus before. This super scary malware infection is making the rounds: a type of ransomware known as Cryptolocker.

Unlike the FBI ransomware that locks your computer and demands money in order to unlock it, Cryptolocker leaves your computer operational — kind of. Your computer programs will continue to run, but Cryptolocker encrypts all your files.

The malware spreads through email phishing attachments (don’t click attachments in suspicious emails!) or botnets (if you don’t have antivirus software or haven’t kept it updated, your computer could be part of a network of hacked computers known as a botnet that criminals can use for all kinds of illicit activities).

While it locks up your files, the files exist, but they can’t be opened. That’s right. Any folder containing information is suddenly inaccessible unless you pay. The crooks are demanding $300 to give you a “key” to unlock your files. They are also asking for two Bitcoins, an online/digital currency. (Current exchange rate equals about $280).

You don’t want to get this one. If you pay, you may get the key. If you don’t, you may lose all your files.

People are paying the bad guys to get access to their data, and get a key.

But remember, when you do this it will help them make meaner and more effective malware. These people are criminals. All they want is your money, so you may or may not get access to your files again.

Cryptolocker and what it can do is described in more detail on our blog: snakeriverbbb.wordpress.com. We’ll have a link there.

BBB offers the following advice to keep from being hit by Cryptolocker or similar malware infections:

• Back up your files through cold storage. If you have a clean backup that the malware can’t reach, you can get your files back.

If you back up your files with an external hard drive, don’t plug it into your computer unless you’re backing up. You can also pay for an online backup service, but make sure the service isn’t mapped as a network drive or the files could still be affected.

• Keep your operating system is updated. Updates often include added security protections. That also goes for browsers and add-ons like Java and Adobe Flash.

• Use anti-virus software. Download reputable anti-virus software if you don’t have it already and keep it updated.

• Use the cloud. Upload photos and other treasured files to services such as Flickr or Picasa.

• Use a filtered email service. Web-based email services such as Google Mail block spam and will not allow you to receive or send email attachments with executable files in them.

• Be careful what you click. Porn sites are common sources of malware, as are links sent by unfamiliar people through social media such as Twitter.

Robb Hicken: 947-2115

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