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PSA: CryptoLocker. BACKUP YOUR COMPUTER REGULARLY & DO NOT GIVE KIDS ADMIN

CryptoLocker is getting common enough that it's starting to get a few mentions in mainstream news. I've spent a while trying to find an article about it that's not written by an idiot, and there's some very bad advice being soundbyted in the news. BEFORE you get infected, you're better off reading something that's written by people who actually know what they're doing, so try these:

Dealing with CryptoLocker

CryptoLocker on the Loose

Macs (so far) haven't been infected with this specific version, but there are others that do work on macs, so you should be doing everything, too.  The program usually comes attached to an email, but you can also get it by clicking on unknown links.  NEVER click a link blindly.  Hover your mouse over it and you'll see the real address pop up either right under your mouse or at the bottom of your screen.  Try it on the links above - the first should go to reddit, and the second to nakedsecurity.sophos. If it's a shortened address like bit.ly, use the unshortenit extension on your browser (FF or Chrome, and ffs STOP using IE) to check any condensed address before clicking it.  

If you execute this file, it will connect to an external server, obtain a code from it, and immediately encrypt ALL of your files.  In layman's turns, it will scramble them in a way you cannot unscramble.  Neither can your brother in law the computer genius.  Neither can the NSA (ok, maybe they can, but they're not hiring out their services).  You will be told you have 3 days to pay them $300 via a prepaid credit card or 2 bitcoins.  If you pay them within 3 days, they will send a 2nd code to your computer that unlocks your files and a program to prevent re-infection (they really do this, because they want to keep people paying).  If you wait longer than 3 days, too late.   You will have lost all of your baby pictures, emails, writing projects, budget sheets, music, video - every file that can be seen in a file folder window can be encrypted.

To try to mitigate the damage- on Windows 8, use the File History option under control panel - this is not enabled by default, you have to turn it on.  On macs, use the Time Machine. On Windows 7 or older, you need to use an external program - they have a built in service that backs up your system files, but this does nothing for your personal files (pictures, documents, music, video, etc).  Keep frequent backups so you can, AFTER removing the ransomware, restore to a previous point.  You will not be able to recover anything between the backup and the encryption, so the more often you back up, the better.

Do NOT use the default Admin login when using your computer.  Set everyone in the house up as their own user.  Yes, this is an inconvenient PITA when you want to download and install something, but inconvenient is better than all your pictures disappearing forever.

(this one should be a no brainer, but) DO NOT click links in emails, and even if it is a company you recognize or an email from a friend.  Go there directly through your browser.  If it's a message about needing to update your info, you should be informed of that when you log into the side directly.  Obviously this doesn't count for something like password retrieval where they send you a link to reset it when you ask, but only when you ask for it.

If you're more tech savvy, you should look into setting up a home network that backs up files to an external drive that is only connected during backup 

Answer Question
 
NotPanicking

Asked by NotPanicking at 9:49 AM on Oct. 25, 2013 in Politics & Current Events

Level 50 (408,089 Credits)
Answers (6)
  • Ugh, it makes me scared to even use my computer these days....

    Thanks for the information!
    m-avi

    Answer by m-avi at 11:23 AM on Oct. 25, 2013

  • Ugh, it makes me scared to even use my computer these days....

    I'm required to keep up on a lot of tech stuff, so I read about all these new malware/virus/spyware things as they come out. This is the first one that has ever literally given me nightmares.
    NotPanicking

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 11:37 AM on Oct. 25, 2013

  • Anybody found guilty of writing a program like that should have his or her fingers chopped off with a dull ax. How destructive!
    Ballad

    Answer by Ballad at 11:46 AM on Oct. 25, 2013

  • so is it a virus that just randomly pops up thru internet use unannounced or a virus you have to download absentmindedly? exactly how do you "catch" it?

    i had a virus similar to this one (but no where near as complex or large) when i was in college...it was insane and i could do nothing about it, couldnt open any of my files. it would pop up every so often saying "you can't see this cause Paris Hilton is a skank"...or something like that haha.
    okmanders

    Answer by okmanders at 1:03 PM on Oct. 25, 2013

  • exactly how do you "catch" it?

    This particular one you have to run a file, so far. It can potentially be turned into an automatic file, but nobody has yet, probably because it would overload their servers with all the requests when it ran. They hide it as an update from a company you already know, so you run it thinking you're updating something you already have.
    NotPanicking

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 1:46 PM on Oct. 25, 2013

  • thanks for explaining it in more simple terms! i need to warn my mom...she is awful about clicking on unknown links, so this would really mess her up. thanks for the heads up!
    okmanders

    Answer by okmanders at 10:55 PM on Oct. 25, 2013

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