Defending Against the CryptoLocker Virus [in 4 Easy Steps]

How to stop the CryptoLocker virus in 4 easy steps

In 2013, a group of hackers created CryptoLocker virus: a malicious app that spread like wildfire, earning as much as $28 million for the criminals who made it.

Usually, this would be a fun but useless data security factoid. New viruses come out all the time – and are usually beaten as quickly as they get released.

This is not the case for CryptoLocker, which can literally take your files hostage and keep them locked until you buy them out. This app is a serious network security threat in 2016 – and here’s why.

  1. Refusing to pay the ransom results in your files being irreversibly damaged or lost. In some cases, this happens despite people giving in to the hackers’ demands. This means that a computer infected by CryptoLocker can lose valuable, confidential or irreplaceable records forever – no matter what you do.
  2. An infected device spreads the virus, increasing the number of network security threats online.
  3. Australia’s new data breach notification bill means businesses and individuals must inform others when data is lost or compromised. Failure to do so results in a fine of $360,000-$1.8 million; not something you want to risk!

Considering these risks, the best way to beat I.T. security threats like CryptoLocker is by never getting them in the first place – and removing them fast if you get them.

We’ll tell you how to do both in this article – and the first thing step to doing it is…

How CryptoLocker Works

CryptoLocker isn’t just any virus.

It’s an example of Ransomware: a malicious application or piece of code that blocks a user’s access to their device until the hacker’s instructions are followed.

Ransomware is a rising threat in the world of I.T. security risks – and in the case of CryptoLocker, the virus’s instructions are to send money anonymously using bitcoin.

There is a time limit on each transfer demand – and the complexity of the codes generated by the program is such that cracking them before the timer runs out is effectively impossible, even for an I.T. security company.

This is all bad news – but there is a silver lining to this information.

See, CryptoLocker’s goal is to get money in exchange for returning your data. Its owners view the virus as a business – not a directly malicious network security threat app. They want your money OR your proverbial life… Not both.

After all, if word got out that most people don’t get their access back after paying the ransom, CryptoLocker’s business model would break down… Because the best I.T. security strategy for dealing with the virus would be to ignore it.

Which means that CryptoLocker rarely destroys your data outright. If it did so often, nobody would pay its creators. Users may lose some information – evidence is anecdotal – but this isn’t what’s supposed to happen.

Why CryptoLocker is Relevant in 2016

Once a virus’s code is isolated, it can be managed and removed. This is the job of I.T. security products and information security companies in the anti-virus niche.

In CryptoLocker’s case, its code was isolated as early as 2013. This means we’ve been able to uninstall it for years – but here are the 2 reasons this virus still causes so many I.T. security issues today:

  1. Firstly, CryptoLocker is adept at entering stealth mode and avoiding detection. This lets it survive in a computer system for longer than other viruses do.
  2. CryptoLocker blocks you from accessing your files – and if it is removed forcibly, it can damage data irreversibly.

These factors explains why even with the best security, computers are still suffering from this virus today. This sneaky piece of ransomware is just that great at hiding itself – which is unfortunate, considering…

What Happens When You Get Infected

When a user gets the virus, a countdown timer opens on their computer. It measures out 100 hours and displays the instructions you need to complete before the timer runs out.

The instructions are always simple: to send money to an untraceable, anonymous BitCoin e-currency wallet. The standard price for unlocking your device is $300.

This might seem like a high price – but considering the fact that businesses and certain private individuals have millions of data to protect, there’s no shortage of people ready to pay up.

people

After all, people pay millions of dollars for I.T. security audits and to I.T. security consultants – so it makes sense they would also pay for a hacker to unlock their computer.

The limited amount of time users get to pay up only adds to their feeling of fear, giving people an excuse to take the easy way out and pay the ransom instead of getting help from a computer security system expert.

Protecting Yourself

Most computers infected with CryptoLocker got the virus after users opened infected e-mail attachments.

Usually, these e-mails get caught by computer security systems and spam filters – but with the virus’s ability to create up to 1,000 new domains per day, some messages to get through to their recipients.

When the attachments in them are opened, the virus is activated – and it starts encrypting all your data to lock you out of your computer for good.

This is why the first thing you should do is avoid suspicious e-mails. Always double-check that you trust an e-mail’s sender, subject line and contents before opening anything attached to it. If anything seems off – get help.

The second line of defense is having an up-to-date operating system and antivirus. Most modern antiviruses get the job done so long as they’re up to date. I.T. security compliance is important; make sure to practice it in your business!

Third, always always always back up your information. Anything can happen, whether it’s a virus or a power outage – and it simply makes sense to protect yourself by saving your data regularly.

The fourth and final thing you can do to protect yourself from CryptoLocker and the other viruses out there is reading blogs like this one.

Viruses and the I.T. services that fight them change all the time and the best self-defense is staying updated on the threats they pose.

Are you confident that your network is sufficiently protected from viruses like CryptoLocker? Do you have further questions – or a desire to protect your home or business from ransomware?

If so, please call us today at 1300 530 609 to see what Sydney’s preferred I.T. consulting & support service can do for you!

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