Protect Your Computer Files Against the CryptoLocker Virus with External Backup

The Dreaded CrypoLocker Payment Screen

IT Leaders posted a CryptoLocker support page for the public.
IT Leaders posted a CryptoLocker support page for the public. | Source

Oh, no! Not Another Computer Virus!

Recently I've read several news reports from reputable sources about a new computer virus that's spreading like a California wildfire. Its name? CryptoLocker--a virus with the potential to destroy all your computer files, and it's rapidly taking hostages.

Hostages? Did you read that right? Yes, you did. CryptoLocker is a type of ransomware, and "ransom" is the operative word. When the virus invades a computer and infects its system, key files on the hard drive are encrypted and made inaccessible to the user. They are held hostage for a ransom.

Your security software or a computer expert may be able to "uninfect" your computer, but neither can unlock those encrypted key files or allow you access to your computer. Security software companies haven't been able to produce a protection against this virus yet. Even an expert computer tech won't be able to rescue your encrypted files from CryptoLocker. No one but the hackers responsible for the virus can do that--and they have a price. A box on your computer screen will tell you the amount of the ransom and how many hours you have to pay it--usually $300 within 72 hours, although there are accounts of some $700 ransom demands--and the countdown begins on the screen.

So far (and I'll update this if I learn otherwise), this virus is only affecting Windows on PCs. But people with Macs shouldn't start feeling complacent. Successful hackers may decide to diversity.

Scammers are already trying to get in on the act and make some money from this virus scare. When searching "cryptolocker", I saw a link "promising" an "easy trick" to unlock files. Don't be taken in by such false promises. In addition, some copycat hackers are putting messages on computer warning your computer is infected even when it isn't. What's a person to do?



http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABitcoin.png

By Satoshi
By Satoshi | Source

Should You Pay the Ransom?

Only you can decide if your computer files are valuable enough for you to allow yourself to become the victim of extortionists. If you don't regularly back up your files--and this is important--even if you regularly back up your files to an external device, but you leave that device connected to your computer all the time (as many people do), or if it just happens to be connected at the time CryptoLocker attacks, you may not be able to recover them.

In addition, all the files in shared network files connected at the time of a CryptoLocker invasion may also become encrypted.

Some security experts say this is the worst computer virus they've ever seen. They warn that the cryptography algorithms used by the CryptoLocker virus were developed as long as 30 years ago by governments, even the military, and are unbreakable without the key.

There's the rub. The criminals behind this destructive virus have the key. They also have an evil plan--to force you to pay for the decryption of your files. If you have years of family photos stored online without external backup, or if you have in-process or completed work files stored on the same computer that you use to access email and the Internet, or if you have multiple computers connected via a network, you may have no alternative but to pay up in order to retrieve data and/or images you don't want to lose.

If you choose not to pay by the deadline, the hackers show no mercy. They follow through with their threat and destroy your files. ZAP!

So far, the crooks have kept their promise to decrypt files once they received ramsom payments via hard-to-trace methods as Bitcoins and Green Dot Moneypaks. Does this mean there's some honor among thieves? Not necessarily. Once they've held you up for ransom and you've given them the currency they demanded, who's to say they won't do it to you again?

An estimated 3% of victims paid to rescue their files as of mid-October, 2013, validating the hackers' theory that they launched a profitable business. This means they'll keep on infecting PCs, demanding ransom and destroying files when it's not paid. In short, they'll continue to act as all successful extortionists do.


Back up Your Computer Files Externally--NOW!

If you don't have an external backup device of any type, you should get one ASAP. It's a good investment when you consider the alternative. Most people have one or more flash drives around, but the newer model external storage hard drives are not only faster, but much less expensive than they used to be. You can get a 1TB (that's 1,024 gigabytes) external drive that connects to either a 2.0 or 3.0 USB port. The 3.0 is about three times faster, especially with very large files. Western Digital and Seagate both have 1TB external drives that retail for less than $100. Are your precious photos and manuscripts-in-progress worth it? You bet! In fact, you should have at least two external backup devices and not keep them stored in the same place (in case of fire or other hazards).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


CryptoLocker gains access to a computer via driveby downloads (read about them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drive-by_download) or infectious attachments to emails (bots) masquerading as legit business emails. Emails purported to be tracking notices from UPS or FedEx may actually be fakes providing a path into your computer's hard drive.

Now is the time to be extra vigilant about the sites you visit on the Internet, downloading from the Web, as well as double-checking the safety of all emails and social network messages before opening. If in doubt, don't do it. Delete suspicious emails unopened.

I encourage you to visit the IT Leaders CryptoLocker Ransomeware Information Guide and FAC (URL shown below) and print all seven pages "just in case." It was compiled on October 14, 2013 and updated October 16. It probably has the most accurate and thorough information extant about CryptoLocker. Its focus is on helping the users of infected computers.

As writers, we work hard to put our words down. Most of us do it on-screen in Word documents, especially early drafts, and many writers don't copy their early work onto a disc or flash drive at that stage. Even if you have a very good memory, you probably don't want to reconstruct an article or story from the recesses of your mind. With this devious virus, CrytoLocker, on the loose, you may want to save even those snippets of writing externally to ensure they're preserved. As with viruses that infect humans, the bottom line is prevention. Routinely backing up your important files is the best thing you can do to keep them safe.

Hopefully, the good guys (and gals) will catch the bad ones--the hacker/extortionists--and put an end to CryptoLocker for good!

Would You Pay the CryptoLocker Ransom?

If your computer or computer network contains important files (documents, images, spreadsheets) that aren't backed up, would you pay a ransom to rescue them if CryptoLocker encryped those files?

  • Yes, paying the money would be worth it to get my files back.
  • No, I wouldn't reward the developers of this terrible computer virus--even if I lost files!
  • It would depend on whether or not all priceless files were backed up.
See results without voting

Protect Your Computer Files

Source

CryptoLocker--Begone!

As writers, we work hard to put our words down. Most of us do it on-screen in Word documents, especially early drafts, and many writers don't copy their early work onto a disc or flash drive at that stage. Even if you have a very good memory, you probably don't want to reconstruct an article or story from your mind. With this devious virus, CrytoLocker, on the loose, you may want to save even those snippets of writing externally.

I don't pretend to be very computer-savvy or "techie"--just the opposite. That is why I take such threats as this new-on-the-scene virus seriously. I don't like having to pay for costly computer repairs, and I especially don't want to chance losing any files I consider important.

Hopefully, the good guys (and gals) will catch the bad ones--the hacker/extortionists--and put an end to CryptoLocker for good!

Thanks for reading and supporting this HubPages writer!


Please vote and leave comments. Your feedback is valuable--especially if you're one of the many HubPages members or visitors who IS computer-savvy and/or "techie" and may be able to offer some useful protective advice for the rest of us.

NOTE: I am the author of this article, and it is owned by me in entirety. It is not available for use by reproducing in any form without my express written permission. If you see all or any part of this article (as written) on another site, please notify me where it can be found. Theft of a writer's work is plagiarism, and stealing another's words is no less wrong than any other theft.

© 2013 Jaye Denman

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34 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

John - I no longer use Internet Explorer at all because when I upgraded that software it almost wrecked my computer. I had to pay a technician to clean a lot of bad files, add a better security program (Norton let bad files get through and marked them 'safe', so I switched to ESET NOD32 Antivirus), and then I was able to download Chrome. I'm currently using Foxfire, which I prefer, and it hasn't caused any problems yet. It's still important to back up any files you don't want hijacked or lost.

Good luck with your computer, and I urge you to check out good antivirus/security software.

Jaye


pocono foothills profile image

pocono foothills 2 years ago from Easton, Pennsylvania

I don't know if I have a virus on my computer, but it just started doing some weird things. Like when I tried to download Google Chrome it wouldn't install properly, and when I log onto a website with Internet Explorer most of the time it will shut down and say Internet Explorer Can Not Access the WebSite. I have Windows 7 of my computer, and never had a problem like this before, but I do have to admit I let my Norton's virus software expire and hadn't renewed it yet.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Shyron - Thanks for your support of this hub, which I hope is helpful to others who read it. We need to do all we can to foil the criminal hackers. By the way, I usually type my hub copy in Word, proof it, then copy and paste into the hub format. That method works best for me.

I'm having a restful Sunday (with two of my great-grandsons--ages 6 and 9) to keep me company. This past week I ran the gamut of emotions. Last Tuesday, my dog finally had surgery that had been postponed, and I worried during the procedure (mainly about the anesthesia), but she came through it fine. She's still being treated post-op in the animal hospital, but will likely be released tomorrow, and I'll be so glad to have her home as she continues to recuperate. (I'm keeping a diary, so there will be a future hub about this event.)

Then came sorrow--the wake and funeral for my daughter-in-law Melanie's brother who died suddenly. Tragic and devastating for his family. It is painful to see someone you love suffering from the loss of a beloved sibling. I feel so helpless, but know that grief is something that must be lived through, and its length and manifestation are different for each individual.

Then Saturday came along and brought smiles when I attended a casual-attire wedding (the bride was barefoot and radiant) held on a historical suspension bridge overlooking a shady river.

So you can see that my week was a microcosm of the emotions we all feel over time, only these various ones were packed into a few days. That's why I'm taking it easy today, cooking meals and listening to a very talkative 6-year-old, answering (or trying to) his many questions and enjoying his spontaneous hugs. Great-grandmas can never get too many hugs!

I hope your own weekend is great. JAYE

Peg - You're very welcome, and I'm glad this hub is useful to you. Cyber-terrorism continues to escalate, and too many people will become its victims. I've recently changed my online passwords to long series of numbers, letters and symbols, with no two passwords alike. The shorter, easier ones (particularly with recognizable words) make it too easy for the hackers to use software that lets them break through in only seconds. I hope everyone is using strong passwords, particularly in the wake of numerous cyber attacks on large institutions that hold our accounts and personal information.

Regards, JAYE


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This is good information to know. Cyber terrorism in any form is scary and holding our work as hostage is just plain nasty. I'm off to back up my work and my pictures. Thanks for the heads up.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 2 years ago

Jaye, I came back to reread this, the information is so valuable to hubbers, especially is you write the hubs on the computer before publishing. Thank you for the information.

Have a great weekend my friend.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Mel - Great attitude! Jaye


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

I don't negotiate with cyber terrorists and I would never pay them. You've given me new motivation to go home and save my files. Great hub!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

RE the StoreJet 2.0 version, it's difficult to find (but some older computers are not compatible with the newer 3.0 version), so the price has increased. However, this portable drive gets good reviews and the cost is relatively low. It's certainly worthwhile to save your writing and other important files, such as business and photos.

Jaye


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 2 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you so much, Audrey. I like to share what I learn with others, and I'm glad you found this article useful. I'm going to add a link to this hub (which I thought was already there--absentminded me!) for a portable hard drive I've found very helpful for file backups. It's a Transcend StoreJet that comes in either 2.0 or 3.0 and is inexpensive on amazon.com.

Like you, I just want to write and not have to worry about viruses and malware. My security system is good, but there are so many new "bad" programs written by hackers every day that security software can't keep up. Learning about the CryptoLocker scared me and pushed me into being more proactive with backups. You just can't leave anything to luck these days. (Especially if you have my kind of luck! Haha.)

Hope you're having a good weekend. JAYE


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Hi Jaye. I love to read your articles. They are so easy to understand. You also like to write to help people learn something or solve problems. So many viruses are destroying our technology that it is frightening. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I spend my time fighting malware, and I just want to write. Pinning. Blessings. Audrey


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

You're very welcome, Nell Rose. We must help each other by sharing information about computer viruses. Jaye


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi, this is great info, I am often subjected to all sorts of darn viruses on my pc, so this is bookmarked and thanks!


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

I tried to pin this, as it contains very valuable information that people need to know. Unfortunately, for some reason it isn't pinnable. ?? It is a very good article.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks for reading, MsDora, and I'm glad I was able to make this information available.

Jaye


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

It is very thoughtful of you to share this information. Hope we all take heed of your warning. I know I will. Thank you very much.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

You're very welcome, Liz. I'm glad you're already backing up your files to protect your work from viruses.

Jaye


epbooks profile image

epbooks 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

These viruses get worse and worse. I make it a point to back up my files almost daily because I would lose countless hours of work if my pc was to become infected! Thanks for notifying us of this virus!


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Paula - I love being a hero--even for a day! LOL Jaye


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Jaye...You're my HERO for the day! Thanks! UP+++


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Hi, Hyphenbird - I'm glad to have provided the motivation. Sometimes we "intend" to do something, but might not get around to actually doing it for a bit. (Believe me, I understand the concept of intention!) Time could be of the essence with a nasty computer virus such as this one on the loose.

Thanks for stopping by.

Jaye


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 3 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I have intended to back up everything for a while now. This gives me motivation! Thanks so much.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Jodah. I'm glad to get this warning out to my writer friends. The only way we can thwart these bad guys is to backup our files. Take care....Jaye


Jodah profile image

Jodah 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

Thanks for the warning Jaye. Nothing is safe anymore is it? With incresed technology comes this new wave of cyber crime...frightening. I'll back up now. Voted up.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Deb - Isn't it sad that we have to be on guard against so much evil in this world? While all hackers aren't malevolent (some do it just to prove they can), the CryptoLocker virus hackers are criminals that word describes. All we can do against them is protect our files and hope the "good guys" catch them and put them out of business soon. Thanks for reading and commenting. JAYE


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Every time we turn around, there's something malevolent out there. Thanks for the great warning.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Writer Fox - Thanks for the endorsement of this warning hub and the vote. Strong computer security and the external backup of important files are crucial for anyone whose livelihood depends on his or her computer and files. They are also important for anyone who just doesn't want to lose files to a hacker.

Regards,

Jaye

DrBJ - Thanks. I'm surprised the news reports about this virus surged one day, but I've seen little since; however, from what I read there don't seem to be any leads for finding and stopping these hacker crooks. (At least, if there's progress toward finding them, it's not publicized.)

Jaye


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Very important warning, Jaye. This is extremely important information. Thanks for the heads-up, m'dear.


Writer Fox profile image

Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

You are very right to put out a warning on this. I use an external, paid backup service which backs up my files several times per day, and I clean all cookies with a free service several times per day. Voted up.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thanks, Shy. Criminals don't care who they hurt or how, just so they get money from their evil deeds.

I don't know how to put a Pinterest pin on my hubs. Must learn, but just finished a 1200-word Textbroker assignment and need some rest. I'm babysitting the "grands" tomorrow.

Jaye


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago

Thank you Jaye for the information, will backup right now. This is very aggrevating, that so called human beings can do this.

Voted-up, UI, and shared. Why is there no pin button on here?


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

You're welcome, Bill. It seems as though for every good and positive use of technology, there are at least two bad, negative or downright villainous ones. It's a shame that some people with brilliant computer programming skills become criminal hackers in order to steal rather than using their talents legally. If all that effort and energy were redirected in a positive manner....but, that's wishful thinking. There will always be crooks. We must protect ourselves and our property from them.

JAYE


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Fascinating....frightening....maddening.....all of the above. Is there anything that is really safe anymore? I will back up immediately; thank you, Jaye, for the heads up. Much-appreciated.

bill


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA Author

Thank you, Flourish - That's a good word for a criminal hacker--"information terrorist." I'd rather protect my computer files than be coerced into paying ransom to retrieve them. It would certainly go against the grain with me. Thanks for sharing and alerting more people to this virus.

Regards, Jaye


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Awesome hub with extremely helpful, well researched information, Jaye! I will take your advice and check those back-ups to ensure all the crucial info is indeed secure. I've got Malware Detection and Anti-Virus Protection, but like you say, it's rapidly taking hostages. The bad guys are so smart, but I don't like the idea of paying to get your own stuff back. Why trust an information terrorist? I am sharing this very valuable hub, voting up and more.

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