There is nasty malware being spread through links and attachments in e-mails that either take you to an unsafe website or download attachments in the e-mail that contain malicious software. The name of this malware is CryptoLocker. Below is a sample email you may receive containing the malware.
If the link within the e-mail is clicked or the attachment is opened, the software starts up and begins to encrypt your files making them inaccessible. The only recommended way to recover your infected system is to do a clean operating system reload on your computer and restore data from the most recent backup.
Under no circumstances would I recommend paying the ransom to the hackers. First, there is no guarantee they will provide you with the key needed to decrypt the files. Second, you run the risk of opening yourself up to future attacks.
Safeguards to Protect Your Computer from Ransomware
- Make sure you have updated antivirus software on your computer.
- Enable automated patches for your operating system and web browser.
- Have strong passwords, and don’t use the same passwords for everything.
- Use a pop-up blocker.
- Only download software—especially free software—from sites you know and trust (malware can also come in downloadable games, file-sharing programs, and customized toolbars).
- Don’t open attachments (especially zip files) in unsolicited e-mails, even if they come from people in your contact list, and never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited e-mail, even if you think it looks safe. Instead, close out the e-mail and go to the organization’s website directly.
- Use the same precautions on your mobile phone as you would on your computer when using the Internet.
- To prevent the loss of essential files due to a ransomware infection, it’s recommended that you always conduct regular system back-ups and store the backed-up data offline.
- If something looks suspicious, it probably is, so just delete the email and clear your delete bin.
Please be very careful and aware that hackers are always searching for victims. No one is exempt from a cyber-attack. Having a good antivirus and malware software is a good defense against such attacks, but nothing is full proof.