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CryptoLocker, your computer, and you

If you have a hankering for a sandwich, you are most likely going to go to your closest sandwich shop to get one. You know that it is reputable, you know where the ingredients come from, and most times you can see them make the sandwich before your very eyes so there are no surprises. What you won't do is eat a sandwich that some random stranger on the street tries to give you. That would be insane, right?

Let's take this concept and apply it to how you surf the web and download files. If you are installing a new program or downloading a new template, it's always safest to go to the site of the company that makes it (e.g., downloading Office from Microsoft's site). You know they are trustworthy, and you know they won't slip some sort of weird ingredient in to your software sandwich. Then why is it that so many people download files and programs from shady websites or through emails from people they don't know? We honestly have no idea, but people do, and that is how you get some nasty viruses. Specifically, ransomware a.k.a. Cryptolocker a.k.a. Locky a.k.a. WannaCry get the point.

Let's talk about it

Malware is malicious software that installs and executes harmful code on your computer. In a previous article, we discussed what malware is and categories that fall under them. Ransomware is another type of malware whose job is to encrypt all your files and data. Users are then coerced into paying (you guessed it) a ransom in hopes that they receive a decryption key. Never pay the ransom as that provides assurance that hackers can get away corrupting users' computers.

Where and how did it originate

In an article by Top Tech News, CryptoLocker made its first appearance in 2013 through disguised mass spam emails that targeted computers running versions of Windows. Hackers rely on non-tech savvy users to be easily deceived and willing to open any incoming emails. These emails will camouflage themselves to appear to be your bank, telephone company, or even your friends to trick you into clicking on links or attachments within them. Certain files will have double extensions (e.g., web-proposal.docx.exe or garfield-comic.png.exe). Since Microsoft hides filename extensions, users click what they believe to be a Word document or an image. Once the attached file is running on your computer, CryptoLocker will begin encrypting files on your computer using the complex RSA 2048-bit encryption.

How can I avoid getting CryptoLocker?

Here are some guidelines to prevent yourself from receiving a malware attack:

  1. 1) Do not visit suspicious websites.
  2. 2) Never open attachments or links within emails from unknown users.
  3. 3) Verify the extension of all downloaded files.
  4. 4) Keep your computer and antivirus protection software up to date.

As a rule of thumb for devices: always have backups. It is easy to wonder, "Oh, this will never happen to me," but one day your computer might come across CryptoLocker or any harmful infection. When that time comes, if you do not have a backup of your files, the chances of saving your information is slim.

In the end

There will always be malware with the intent of making your life miserable. The one clear message to take away from all of this is: be careful. Never open skeptical emails, never go to suspicious websites, and lastly, always keep your technology up to date. If you get CryptoLocker on your computer, turn off your computer immediately and give us a call! Contact us at 844-463-8463 or email us at

Tags: cryptolocker | malware | computer | software

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