Keeping Your Data Safe: 4 Ways to Avoid the CryptoLocker Virus
“Use Caution When Opening” — We’ve all heard this familiar phrase, usually displayed on packages that contain very fragile goods. However, this popular phrase applies to more than the box containing Aunt Edna’s china. It also applies to your emails, especially those containing attachments.
Have you heard of a computer virus called CryptoLocker? It is a virus that attaches itself to a very harmless looking email from a legitimate company. After the recipient opens the attachment, it infects all of the computer’s files with strong encryption that requires a “secret code” to have the encryption removed.
The next thing you see is a ransom note. Pay up, or your files are gone. Ransoms are usually in the $300 - $500 range, with no guarantee that the hackers will actually provide the promised unlock code in return or, if they do, that the code will actually unlock your files. Statistics indicate that over 500,000 computers have been affected by the CryptoLocker virus.
To avoid falling victim to CryptoLocker, CryptoWall, or other malicious computer viruses, employ the following precautions when using your email to communicate:
- Use security software — There are many vendors that are able to provide antivirus and firewall security software. Pick one and keep your software updated. Although no software solution is completely fail-safe, using a recognized security software product will greatly improve your ability to avoid infection of your computer or portable device.
- Employ safe browsing practices — Never run programs or download files from websites or sources you don’t trust. It’s a great way to ruin your computer or network, and lose all of your valuable data.
- Make regular backups of your PC — Backing up your files regularly is the only way to ensure that you’ll recover your files in the event of a data catastrophe.
- Keep your software up to date — This includes your browser and any plug-ins (Flash, Adobe, Java, etc). These utilities often update their code to address new security threats that have surfaced.
Looking for an in-depth explanation of how Cryptolocker works? Read this article from PandaSecurity.com.
How to remove encryption from a file infected with the CryptoLocker virus?
Your first step is to remove the infection itself. A quick Google search will direct you to resources for this. After removing the infection, you have two options for un-encrypting and regaining access to your files:
- PC World and other sources recommend a website jointly hosted by FireEye and Fox-IT to obtain the private key needed to unlock your files.
- If you have been using a cloud-based file backup service, you may restore files that had been backed up at a date and time prior to your having contracted the CryptoLocker virus.