Back in 2013 a new type of virus was discovered called “CryptoLocker”. CryptoLocker was a virus propagated mostly though email attachments. Once a user ran the attachment, the virus would encrypt all of the personal documents and pictures on that user’s computer, then it would ask for a ransom to be paid to unlock the encrypted files.
Ever since this type of virus (known as a “Crypto Virus”) was discovered, it has continued to adapt and increase its damage. Now the virus will not only infect your own computer, it will infect any drives attached to your computer, including server drives. Yes, that’s right, they now infect attached server drives. The type of files it encrypts has also expanded greatly, to cause even more damage.
So how does this type virus get on your computer? The most common method of infection is through an e-mail attachment. Typically the attachment will be in the form of ZIP file with an executable disguised as a PDF file, but it can also be PDF, DOC, or XLS file. It can also be received through malicious code in websites, typically by using Adobe Flash or Java exploits.
So what do you do if your computer is infected with this type of virus? Well, unfortunately, not a whole lot. Paying the ransom will work, but I don’t recommend that, and it usually only works within 48 hours of the infection. The only good option is to restore from backups. If you don’t have a backup, then there is about a 98% chance that you will loose all of that information. There are decryption tools available, but I have yet to see one actually work.
Okay, now that you are sufficiently scared, what is the answer? Well, in this case, the quote from Benjamin Franklin “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could not be more accurate. Simply put, do NOT, and I repeat, do NOT open email attachments, unless you personally know who the sender is. Even if you do know the sender, do not open the attachment unless you were expecting it. I would recommend not opening an attachment, until you contact the sender to confirm that they sent you the e-mail with the attachment. Also, make sure that you keep Adobe Flash and Java up to date. Lastly, make sure to have current, good, anti-virus installed. Anti-Virus doesn’t typically prevent the infection from starting, but in some cases it can at least stop it before it does all of its damage.