Cryptolocker is the latest computer virus malware making the rounds on the Internet. Rather than being merely annoying — like those viruses that send quirky messages to everyone on your email list — Cryptolocker essentially destroys all of the computer files on your Microsoft Windows-based PC.
How does Cryptolocker work?
Cryptolocker uses normally useful key cryptography to make money dishonestly. It relies on publicly available cryptography algorithms commonly used by legitimate businesses to securely encrypt bank transactions or online shopping purchases. But Cryptolocker uses that software maliciously to attach encryption code to your files. Unless you have the key that unlocks the encryption, you simply cannot open any file that contains the encryption. Croptolocker demands payment, and in return, promises to give you the key to unlock your files.
How does Cryptolocker get onto your computer?
Like most malware, the nefarious software disguises itself as legitimate-looking but fake messages or files. These can come from well known businesses such as FedEx or UPS as shipment tracking notifications, PDFs of scanned images, or a bank letter confirming a wire or money transfer.
What happens when you open a Crypto-infected message or attachment?
Cryptolocker malware installs itself on the computer, encrypts most common types of document and image files (such as *.doc, *.pdf, *.eps, *.jpg and many more) and then launches a window displaying a ransom demand (reportedly in the range of $300 to $2,300) to send you the decryption key that unlocks the files. If that isn’t bad enough, there is time limit on the payment demand, after which the ransom demand increases or Cryptolocker threatens to destroy the encryption key. Even if you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee you’ll get the key — or that you won’t be infected again.
What should you do if your computer is infected by Cryptolocker?
Do not pay the ransom. Consider your laptop stolen and your files gone — forever. Scrub your hard drive and restore files from a backup, (which you routinely create, right?). Move on and be thankful it’s just some digital files that are gone and not your life or your family.
Is there anything else you can do to if you are infected by Cryptolocker?
If you have been a victim of an Internet scam, please file a complaint with the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. For more information about Internet scams, please visit the FBI’s E-Scams and Warnings page.
How can you avoid becoming infected by Cryptolocker?
Practice these simple techniques for safe browsing and email habits:
- Store backup files offline.
- Think before you click. Consider carefully whether the email message, links or attached files are from a legitimate source.
- Turn on the firewall for your operating system that allows you to prevent undesirable applications from running or installing without your express permission.
- Activate security features of your web browser. For example, use “SmartScreen Filter” on Internet Explorer, “Phishing and Malware Protection” on Google Chrome and “Block Attack Sites” on Mozilla Firefox.