News of the latest threat to your data files is spreading almost as rapidly as the threat itself - ransomware.
Named "Cryptolocker", this ransomware relies on something antivirus software can't stop - human curiosity. The attack is initiated via either an attachment to an email, a pop-up on a compromised website or as a download on a compromised website. As soon as you open the file the attack is launched, with your data files being the primary target.
Cryptolocker looks for certain files (documents, spreadsheets, pictures, music files, presentations etc) and encrypts them using a code that you don't know, and most likely never will. The infected computer receives a popup message advising the user that a ransom must be paid in order to get the decryption code, however there is no guarantee this code will ever be provided.
This means you could lose access to your files and never get them back!
This is not the first time this type of attack has been seen, however this time around it's making victims of many more people and businesses. There's plenty of information around detailing the symptoms of this problem so rather than duplicate that we really want to get some simple messages out there for people to take notice of, understand, and share with others so they too can be better informed and protected.
So – here’s some simple steps to improving your computer security:
- Don’t open email attachments you’re not expecting to receive, particularly those with unusual names.
- Don’t open email attachments to messages from people from whom you don’t normally receive messages – examples include government departments, banks, Microsoft, Norton Security or long lost boy/girl friends
- Make sure you are running real anti-virus software. This means you’re not relying on the protection of something that’s free – stick to a proper paid-for licence from a reputable vendor like Trend Micro, McAfee, Symantec/Norton, Kaspersky
- Keep your operating system software up to date – if you’re running Windows XP or Vista you need to seriously consider changing to Windows 7, Windows 8 or now Windows 8.1 as a matter of urgency
- Just because you may have some security software on your computer that doesn’t mean you can visit any website you wish and assume you’ll be safe – there are new exploits and vulnerabilities found every day. Having antivirus software doesn’t mean you’ll never get an infection, in the same way that having seatbelts, anti-lock brakes and airbags in your car doesn’t mean you can’t get hurt in an accident
- If you see something that looks too good to be true then it’s probably too bad to be looked at and should be avoided
- Ensure you take regular backups of your data, onto multiple backup devices, and test these backups. And don’t forget the backups need to be taken offsite too!
- Just because you're not running Windows that doesn't mean you're safe from any attacks - there's malware and viruses for Macs and Linux too
- Don’t assume it can’t happen to you – it can and most likely will, it’s simply a matter of time
- If in doubt, ask for help
We also have additional software available to provide improved protection against these attacks, but remember no software package will ever be able to provide 100% guaranteed protection against all threats. You can, however, greatly improve your chances of avoiding an infection.
There are many articles on our blog that are there to help inform and protect you. Take a read of this very popular article on cyber security.
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