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Crypto Locker-The Blackmail Virus

Posted: Monday, February 3, 2014

By: Danielle McConnell - SYV Computer Center (Expired article)

Buellton, CA -

Itís no secret that there are a lot of viruses out in cyber-space. Many of our customers have been affected by viruses, like the all too well known FBI virus, that come up suddenly demanding anonymous money in the form of a Green dot Moneypak; purchasable at Wal-mart, and untraceable to the receiver. The threat that is shown on the FBI virus screen states that you have been convicted of such and such crime, and therefore your computer has been locked. The virus says you need to pay the fine - usually $200 in the form of a Moneypak.

Fortunately, this is nothing more than a scare tactic used by these criminals to extort money from those who contract this virus, and, using our removal tools; we are able to get rid of this virus without harm to the computer.

The Crypto Locker virus is similar, but instead of falsely claiming that its victim has been involved in some sort of cyber crime, it uses a different tactic to blackmail money out of whoever contracted the virus. The Crypto Locker virus is generally known to come in through an email claiming to be from Fed Ex or UPS. The fake email will have an attachment that appears to be a .pdf (adobe reader) file. Really, this file is the virus in the form of an .exe (executable) file hidden as a .pdf. As soon as this virus is opened, it begins encrypting your personal data. (Shown in picture: Crypto Locker virus-from

Encryption scrambles the data contained in your personal files using a specific code, created by whoever is doing the encryption. Some of these codes are well known and easily decoded. The code used by the masterminds behind the Crypto Locker is not. It has been said that nobody can - or may ever be able to - figure out the coding that these criminals use. The only known way to get your files decrypted and have the virus release its grip is to pay the ransom money and receive the ďprivate keyĒ to unlock your files. Removal of the virus itself does not remove the encryption, but simply leaves your files damaged and unusable, with no way to decode them.

Though it has been reported that paying the ransom fee will cause the virus to be lifted, and your files to be decoded and safe, it is not recommended to give in to their demands. This only encourages these criminals to keep doing what they are doing. It also lets them know that you respond to blackmail, and opens the door for more demands and attacks. The battle against Crypto Locker is a futile one. The best way to fight this virus is through preventing it from infecting you in the first place.

How to Protect Yourself against Crypto Locker

Backing up your files regularly is extremely important. There are a variety of things that can cause you to lose your personal files. This is not just limited to the Crypto Locker virus. Hard drive failure or theft can leave your personal data lost and corrupted. There are data retrieval companies, such as Drive Savers, who specialize in getting your files back, but it is a difficult process; and if your computer is stolen, this option does not apply. So, the best way to make sure that your important data remains safe in an event like this is to store a backup on an external hard drive or memory stick. Store it in a safe place.

The most important thing that you can do to safeguard yourself against all viruses is to use good judgment while surfing the web and viewing emails. If you receive an email that you are not expecting, or that looks suspicious, donít open the attachment. If something doesnít look right, itís probably not. You can always give us a call here at Kevinís Santa Ynez Valley Computer Center at (805)688-8811 if you are not sure about something, and we will be happy to look it over for you.

The FBI is working on tracking down these criminals, so hopefully in the near future the Crypto Locker virus will be a thing of the past. But, for now, the best way to protect yourself against this awful virus is to prevent it from striking in the first place, and to be prepared for file loss by backing up your personal data. Stay safe!

Danielle McConnell is with SYV Computer Center, 85 West Highway 246 (next to Rabobank). She spends a significant portion of her time servicing Santa Ynez Valley customers who have detected virus or malware on their PC. She can be reached at: (805)†688-8811

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