Since the beginning of 2014, a virus called CryptoLocker has terrorized the world, made millions of dollars, and permanently locked away files.
CryptoLocker is falling out of fashion. Replacing it is a virus called Cryptowall, which is essentially the same thing but in a different form.
In fact, Cryptowall might even be made by the same developers as CryptoLocker.
How does Cryptowall work?
-Cryptowall spreads itself through online files – typically, email attachments.
-You might receive an email from a friend with a link in the attachment. Clicking on that link infects your computer with Cryptowall almost instantly.
-Cryptowall will introduce itself via email. That email will claim that your files are inaccessible and your computer is officially infected.
-During that introductory email, Cryptowall explains the pricing structure: if you pay right away, your files cost “only” $500 to unlock. If you wait more than 48 hours, that bounty doubles to $1,000. That’s more expensive than CryptoLocker, which used a $300/$600 fee structure.
-Cryptowall primarily spreads through Dropbox, the popular cloud file storage service. This has made business users a popular target for Cryptowall, as a lot of businesses rely on Dropbox.
How to avoid Cryptowall
Downloading Cryptowall may be an expensive mistake. Unlocking your files costs $500 to $1000 USD. There’s no alternative: you can either pay that money and regain access to your files or lose your files behind encryption forever.
That’s a harsh choice to make.
The only way you can avoid paying the money while retaining access to your files is if you have saved those files in another location – like cloud storage or external storage. However, if your files were backed up to an external storage drive attached to your PC, then they will be encrypted there as well.
Here are some rules for avoiding Cryptowall:
-Scan email attachments with antivirus software before downloading them, if possible
-Don’t open emails from unknown contacts
-Even if an email comes from a known contact, it could be infected. If the email is suspicious or doesn’t feature any text explaining its reasons, then consider emailing your contact back confirming the email is legitimate.
-Use Google Chrome or another secure, updated browser like Firefox. Internet Explorer generally fares worse in security tests compared to both of these two browsers. With Chrome, users also receive warnings when they’re about to visit a site where other users have experienced problems.
-The most common Cryptowall email explains that your account received a fax and that you need to click on a link in the email to receive that fax. This has been a highly successful email with a high infection rate.
If you can follow the above tips, you’re way less likely to become another Cryptowall victim. If you do, however, like to click on unknown links in email attachments, then you could be in big trouble.
Be careful out there: the encryption virus attacks of 2014 are far from over.