What would happen if you woke up one morning and tried to open that Great American Novel you’d just slaved over for the past five years, only to find that it was encrypted somehow? And you got a rude message that “Your files are encrypted. You must pay $300 within the next 72 hours to get your files back.”
If this or something like this ever happens to you, you’ve been a victim of a virus called Cryptolocker, Cryptowall, or Cryptodefense, or variations of those names. These are collectively called ransomware, because they literally hold your files for ransom. The virus typically starts encrypting all your documents and pictures as soon as it finds it’s way onto your computer, and then demands a ransom, usually between $300 and $500, to send you the encryption key so you can get your files back.
This has happened to a lot of people recently, and it’s been happening more frequently with small businesses, because such businesses seldom have the robust security in place that large businesses have, and also sometimes do not have a very good data backup plan either. Therefore, they desperately need those files and often will pay to get them back. A couple of small town Police departments have even fallen victim to this (Oh, the Embarrassment!), and have had to pay the ransom to the criminals!
I’ve got good news and bad news. The Bad News: If this happens to you, you’re probably up the creek unless you have a good data backup or you pay the ransom.
The Good News: The criminals seem to have some honor, in that they (usually) hold up their end of the bargain, and provide the key when they get paid.
The Better News: There is a way to “Inoculate” yourself against this malware, using a small free download that changes some Windows policies. This is called “Cryptoprevent.” Please note that this will not cure the problem if you already have the virus, but it should protect you if it attempts to run on your system.
For even more empowering technology info, read my new book, “Deciphering the 21st Century,” Available now!
I’d love to hear your comments!