Some of you may have seen e-mails floating around, postings on social media, or news articles warning you of a new malware called CryptoLocker. Since most of us by now are desensitized to these types of warnings, I’m sure many of you aren’t aware of the details. In summary, the CryptoLocker malware encrypts all the data on your hard drive and attempts to blackmail you into paying $300 or so in order to unlock your files. If you do not pay within a few days, you are warned that the decryption key will be deleted and you will never be able to recover your files. It sounds almost too sinister to be true – like something you would see in a movie. Unfortunately, I’ve researched this malware to be 100% sure, and it is in fact all too real. This malware is definitely serious enough to take notice of, so please read the rest of this article in order to best protect yourself.
The very first thing to be aware of is that this malware ONLY affects Windows-based computers. Apple Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPads, the iPod Touch, Android-based smartphones and tablets, and all other devices are NOT susceptible to this malware. So if you do not own any Windows-based computers, you can breathe a little easier but you may want to stay informed anyway.
If you own a Windows-based computer, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to ensure you have a working backup of all the data on your computer. This includes documents, pictures, music, video, and anything else that you store on your computer. (FYI – online services like your bank account are not directly affected.) In the case you are struck by this malware, if you do not have a working and current backup, your choices are, in reality, pay the $300+ ransom or lose all your files. This malware is no joke. It uses industry-standard encryption technology to scramble the data on your hard drive. There is NO WAY to decrypt your data unless you have the decryption key, which only the criminals behind the malware have possession of. Anti-virus software is capable of removing the infection, but it can not decrypt your data.
Speaking of anti-virus software, this would be a very good time to ensure that you have updated and working anti-virus software. Anti-virus software can stop the infection from taking hold, assuming it stays current enough to catch new variations as they appear. However, even the best anti-virus software can not stop all infections all the time, which is why having a backup is your best protection.
Honestly, I believe this malware is dangerous enough that if you or your business operate on Windows-based computers, this should seriously make you consider moving to a different computer platform. Up to this point, malware on the Windows platform has been costly enough, but this new strain of malware is specifically designed to destroy your data and hold it for ransom. At $300 or more per attack, not including the cost to clean your PC, it would only take a few instances of this malware to more than pay for a new computer. Changing to a new computing platform may seem like a drastic step, but if the future of Windows is ransomware this destructive, staying with Windows doesn’t seem like much of a choice.
If you are in a situation where you still require software that still only runs on Windows, there are methods to isolate Windows and significantly reduce your risk. In addition, if you need help ensuring you have an adequate backup plan, do not delay any longer. Please contact me today to discuss your options.