Wednesday, Dec 04 2013 06:00 AM

Tech Wire: Ransomware and 'CryptoLocker'

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Matthew Sgherzi

We have all probably heard of term "malware." This term, however, is only an umbrella to many sub-categories of malware types. Under the general term "malware" are Viruses, Trojans, Worms, Adware, Spyware, Logic Bombs and Ransomware. While all of these perform very different malicious activities, ransomware generally takes assets (in most cases: files), locks them up and them demands money from you (ransom).

In the past, many have been infected with what is called "FBI Ransomware." This simply modified the way your computer started up by displaying a fake FBI warning message demanding money. The FBI Ransomware was very easy to fix, as your files were never truly locked by this piece of malware.

The latest ransomware that has become very popular in the last couple of months is what is being called by security experts as "CrptoLocker". Unlike the FBI Ransomware, CryptoLocker not only displays a message stating your data has been locked and demands money, it truly does lock your files. A

ny files on your computer including documents, pictures, videos or any personal information will be encrypted with a very strong password. Your networked file on servers (if you have any) are not safe, either. The encryption being used is not likely to be broken by the person who gets their files locked. CryptoLocker then demands $300 sent to an offshore account in order to, supposedly, get the password to unlock your files.

The problem with this is law enforcement has been shutting CryptoLocker's servers down, so you will likely never get the password even if you do pay.

So, what should you do about this? Is it even serious enough to worry about?

At last reports, estimated gains from the creators of CryptoLocker is more than $100 million. This means it is spreading fast enough and it is forcing enough people to pay money to consider it a serious enough threat.

The most popular way CryptoLocker is spreading is through e-mail attachments (like most malware). You will get an e-mail from someone you know who provides what may look like a very legitimate message containing an attachment in PDF format. This file looks like a PDF, and it may even open a PDF, but it also contains a "payload" that will also launch CryptoLocker in addition to the PDF: Leaving you thinking that nothing at all went wrong initially.

Anytime you click links on Facebook, pop-ups or advertisements on websites, open e-mails from people you don't know or even e-mail attachments period then you have the potential of becoming the next victim.

Like with all malware, follow this same principle:

If you didn't go seek it, don't do it!

Essentially: If you did not go looking for the video that "Caught you stealing your friend's car last night on YouTube!" from your e-mail account, then avoid it when you see it. This goes for all spam and spyware which eventually will lead to more serious problems.

In this world of malicious threats and scam artists, you always have to be on your toes. Do you not let your guard down. You are your best security software.


MATTHEW SGHERZI lives in Tehachapi where he has operated an IT business since 2007 (tehachapicomputers.com).

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