New Virus Holds Your Computer Hostage
Your computer held hostage… all your files suddenly, inexplicably encrypted… a sinister message that gives you 72 hours to pay a ransom fee for your data or else your hard drive will be wiped clean…
It sounds like something out a science fiction movie. But it’s not.
This is the CryptoLocker virus, and it’s very real.
If your computer becomes infected, all of your files will be held hostage until you cough up the demanded fee.
Paying the fee won’t guarantee the safe return of your files, either. After all, you’re dealing with criminals. You can’t expect them to be honorable.
And taking your computer to a shop to recover your files won’t help either. The encryption this virus uses is sophisticated, and all-but-impossible to break if you don’t have the key. Your local computer repair shop will be as helpless as you are.
Living in an Online World
We live in an online world. That means that you’re exposed to cyber threats every day. A secretive sect of people who know the ins and outs of network connections and computer code are willing to use that knowledge to steal from you or to make your life miserable just for the fun of it.
The benefits of being online are big. You can keep in closer touch with friends and family. You have ready access to information about anything and everything. You have a greater selection when it comes to shopping choices, which means you can stretch your budget further and enjoy a higher quality of life.
On the downside, statistics show that every minute 19 people have their identity stolen. That’s approximately 10 million people every year. And in one report, the number of people that become the victim of a computer virus, malware, a hacker attack, or spyware is estimated at 12 million every six months.
The need to protect yourself is clear.
Protect Your Data From
Hackers and Thieves
Just because you store important documents on your computer and spend time online doesn’t mean that you have to fall victim to a virus like CryptoLocker.
You have several options to protect yourself.
First, practice smart email usage. Typically CryptoLocker makes it onto your computer when you click on a bad link in an email or open an attachment. To help protect yourself, set up a good Spam filter (Google’s Gmail uses one of the best). That will keep most suspicious email out of your inbox. Don’t open attachments or click on links from strangers. Unfortunately, you’ll also have to be suspicious of email that comes from friends, family, or reputable businesses. Anyone who has your email in their contact folder could send you an infected message if their computer has been hacked. Don’t open attachments that you weren’t expecting to receive – verify the attachment’s authenticity with the sender first. And don’t click on links in generic looking emails that come from people you know. Messages like “You’ve got to see this!” followed by a link are usually bad. Again, verify before you click anything.
Second, install an anti-virus program on your computer. Anti-virus software can recognize and destroy viruses before they take root on your computer and do real damage.
Third, work behind a firewall. A third-party firewall or Windows firewall will add another layer of protection to your computer.
Fourth, practice good back-up behavior. Doing a nightly back-up of your hard-drive to an external drive – either one you keep on your desk and plug in at night or to an online service like Carbonite – will give computer technicians a way to restore your data even if it’s been encrypted or corrupted by malware or viruses.
For the best protection, use a combination of all four of these suggestions. These steps will not only reduce the chances that your computer will become infected, butl also give you a way to restore your files in a worst-case scenario. It’s a recipe for the greatest security with the minimum amount of headache.