Dangerous Computer Viruses Spreading


CryptoLocker Ransom Screenshot

If you’ve never heard of CryptoLocker, you’re one of the lucky ones. The virus, commonly referred to as ransomware, is one of many that locks computer owners out of their files by encrypting them. It’s called ransomware because the only way to decrypt your files is to pay the assailant a ransom. Typically the ransom starts at around $500, but can increase to $1,000 or more if you don’t pay within a predefined time period.

We’ve seen a number of cases of these infections recently and unfortunately, there are only two ways to get your files back if your computer gets infected. The first way to get your files back is to restore them from a recent backup. That is assuming you’ve backed up your computer recently. This can only be done once your computer has been wiped clean to ensure no traces of the infection remain. The second option to restore your files is to pay the ransom and decrypt your files. Obviously the second option is less than desirable. It is very possible that even after decrypting your files, the infection will reactivate if the proper steps are not taken to remove the infection.

You might be thinking that this is high crime and something the law enforcement community may be able to help you with. We certainly thought that notifying the FBI would be a logical course of action. While it is certainly something to contact the authorities about, it’s likely they won’t be able to help you. In a news story a Massachusetts police department was forced to pay a $500 to CryptoLocker in order to decrypt the database it used to run the entire police department. Another Massachusetts police department paid a ransom of $750 in 2013 to decrypt its files.

It’s 2015 and the Internet may sound like the Wild Wild Web, but computer vulnerabilities are nothing new and your need to protect yourself is only slightly greater than it was before. There are a few things that you can do to beef up security and protect yourself from digital kidnappers. Here are some keys to ensuring your security.

  1. Never ignore computer updates. Computer updates (whether for your operating system or the software you have installed on it) are designed to close security loophole that developers find after publishing a piece of software. Sometimes these updates come before hackers find the vulnerabilities, sometimes they come after. No matter what, installing updates as soon as you are prompted will decrease the threat of infection on your computer.
  2. Always have antivirus and a firewall installed. Just because your computer is up-to-date does not mean that you are out of the woods. There are a number of software solutions that provide additional protection against digital intrusions. We recommend BitDefender and will install it for free when purchased from one of our stores. BitDefender Antivirus Plus is just $49.95 per year per computer.
  3. Always keep a backup of your files. A sure fire way to protect yourself against any kind of loss is to ensure you back up your important files regularly. Whether you are moving files manually to an external hard drive or if you have software that automatically backs up your computer to an external drive or to the cloud, there is no excuse for losing your files in the event of an infection. We recommend LiveDrive Automatic Cloud Backup and install it remotely at no extra cost with an annual subscription. The service costs just $59 per year per computer.
  4. Get educated. They say ignorance is bliss. That is until your computer files are encrypted and you’re stuck paying a $500 ransom to get them back. In the seemingly complicated world of technology, lack of knowledge will only increase your risk for getting a computer infection. Avoiding problem areas on the web and knowing what to do when the first signs of an infection present themselves can save you a lot of headache and a lot of money. Fortunately, Computer Concepts offers classes each month on computer security to help you increase your awareness, prevent computer infections, and learn what to do when things go wrong.

Every year it seems that some new computer threat emerges that no one is safe from. To date, Mac computers remain the gold standard when it comes to avoiding infections. Replacing your PC with a Mac remains an option for those who just don’t want to risk it, but there is no guarantee that Macs won’t also be a target for hackers in the future. No matter what you decide to do to protect yourself, we encourage you to do something. The first step if to discuss your situation with a technology professional. Computer Concepts is always happy to answer your questions. Call us or come into one of our locations today to learn how you can remain safe online.

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