What is Cryptolocker and How Do You Prevent It?

Recently, a new piece of malware has been wreaking havoc online, locking innocent users out of their files and demanding money. Cryptolocker is a form of virus known as “ransomware” – a variety that attempts to extort money in exchange for providing users with what they already own, but can no longer access.

So what is it about Cryptolocker that changes the game, and how do you prevent yourself from falling victim to this vile threat. That is precisely what we want to look at today.

What Exactly is Cryptolocker?

It’s a simple question, and the answer is “malware”, but things go deeper than that because all of this is far from being simple. To get a deeper look, we will see what the security experts have to say.

Brian Krebs, who previously covered security for the Washington Post, and currently runs the Krebs on Security blog, states

Cryptolocker is a diabolical new twist on an old scam. The malware encrypts all of the most important files on a victim PC – pictures, movie and music files, documents, etc. – as well as any files on attached or networked storage media.

Krebs goes on to explain:

Cryptolocker then demands payment via Bitcoin or MoneyPak and installs a countdown clock on the victim’s desktop that ticks backwards from 72 hours. Victims who pay the ransom receive a key that unlocks their encrypted files; those who let the timer expire before paying risk losing access to their files forever.

In recent days, the thieves have begun allowing victims more time to pay – an obvious effort to simply collect more money. After all, those traveling may still pay once they return and discover the problem.

Security expert Steve Gibson explain that

it installs itself into the Documents and Settings folder under a randomly generated name and adds itself to – and this is Windows only – to the Windows autorun list so that it executes every time you run Windows or start up Windows. It produces a lengthy list of random-looking server names in the domains of .biz, .co.uk, .com, .info, .net, .org, and .ru.

crypto-infection

How Do You Get it?

It is typically installed through phishing attacks in email. So people will get an email that looks reasonable to them, and they will click on a link, and it’ll be an executable, and they will now be infected. Don’t be fooled by files that appear to be something else – a Word document or PDF, for instance, as these can still be stealth EXE files.

However, more recent research has shown the problem branching out – the malware also can now be deployed by hacked and malicious web sites by exploiting outdated browser plugins.

Avoiding it

The simple answer is to not open email attachments unless you are positive they were sent by that person and they are files you anticipated receiving. If you’re in doubt then contact the sender and inquire. Check the file properties also – malware.pdf may in fact be “malware.pdf.exe”.

A new utility released by Foolish IT (yes the name is silly, but the company is not) can also help out. CryptoPrevent “is a tiny utility to lock down any Windows OS (XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1) to prevent infection by the Cryptolocker malware or “ransomware”, which encrypts personal files and then offers decryption for a paid ransom”.

crypto-prevent-interface

Conclusion

While CryptoPrevent can help, the best defense for users is always the same. Its all about behavior. Don’t do stupid things and don’t visit potentially dangerous web sites. In other words, always err on the side of caution. This threat shows little sign of abating and antivirus does next to nothing to prevent it from striking. It really is a jungle out there.

The Complete Windows 10 Customization Guide

The Complete Windows 10 Customization Guide

In this ebook we’ll be exploring the multitude of options to fully customize Windows 10. By the end of this ebook you’ll know how to make Windows 10 your own and become an expert Windows 10 user.

Get it now! More ebooks »

5 comments

  1. HitmanPro.Alert now has a tool to prevent it.

    Regards

  2. @Vitor: Thanks for the information. It looks good.
    Here’s the link: http://www.surfright.nl/en/cryptoguard

  3. I’m really glad that I stopped using Windows years ago. It was always an effort to constantly have to trick it into working, and here’s another example of one less thing that I have to do.

  4. I have always been careful about opening emails and attachments. However, most of these threats come to users of email accounts that go along with their browser i.e. MSN mail, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc. I use a free email service that is not affiliated with any browser that I am aware of and very seldom does my anti-malware warn me about going into a site.

  5. Why can’t the source of the ransomware be found, arrested and be held financially liable for the damages (Millions of dollars)? Can’t our super high-tech government, follow the money trail and bust these criminals?

    Or is the government the source?

Comments are closed.

Sponsored Stories