CryptoLocker: The virus that will hold your data hostage

A predator looks for its prey, laying traps and waiting for something to take the bait. If you don’t have your guard up, you’re going to get caught. And online, the results could be devastating.

CryptoLocker is one of those nightmare viruses, the likes of which Cooper Tech hasn’t ever seen before. Released around September 2013 and targeting Windows based computers, it comes in the form of an innocuous looking email that’s ostensibly from somewhere like UPS or FedEX, but these shipping companies aren’t to blame, its spammers posing as legit companies who are looking to ruin your day (and possibly your business) by holding your computer’s files as ransom.

The email has a message that you have a customer complaint or some other type of plea to get you to click on a zip attachment. There’s a lot of detail as to what the ransomware program actually does (you can read more here), but long story short, a payment screen pops up to let you know that your personal files have been encrypted (your files are locked up and unusable), and to decrypt them you need a private key.

And to get that key, you have to pay several hundred dollars in Bitcoins* within 72 hours. If you let the time expire, the price goes up to somewhere around $6,000.

If you pay the ransom, the infection could decrypt the files entirely, and you could go on your merry way a few hundred dollars poorer, or it could have a hidden payload in it that will be released at a later date, and you’ve still paid out cash to criminals for the privilege of using your own computer files. You’ve also set yourself up as an easy mark.

Sleep safe at night knowing even errant clicks by your employees won’t likely result in disaster with a strong anti-spam/anti-virus filter monitored by people who know what to look for, and sleep even better with a couple of backups of your data. Those backups may just save your business if you get taken down by this virus so you can get back up and running with minimal loss of time and money.

Without multiple backups with versioning and without spam/virus filters, it’s hard to say just how much can be saved if you get hit with CryptoLocker.

*Bitcoins – what are bitcoins? Another long story short; bitcoins are virtual currency that can’t be tracked and that fluctuate in value based upon the market. Bitcoin value recently just jumped, making what was once a $2,000 ransom after 72 hours to a $6,000 ransom.

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