Locking up CryptoLocker: Malicious malware on the Rise

Ivan Kvapil/Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 29, 2013

In September, an epidemic of a new computer malware called CyrptoLocker started spreading across the country.

CyrptoLocker is a type of malware called ransomware, a strain of malware that has been around since 1989 and is constantly remade by hackers to get around new versions of anti-virus technology, including programs currently used by UAF’s Office of Information Technology department. CyrptoLocker encrypts a computer and infects files and prompts the user to pay anywhere from $100 to $500. If the money is not paid, the virus will delete all encrypted files, including files on the computer and files that someone may try to upload to cloud servers once the computer is infected.

OIT has been working on a way to stop this piece of malware ever since they first saw it pop up in early September, according to Chief OIT Officer Nathan Zierfuss-Hubbard. Computers get infected by CryptoLocker when the users opens a specific email attachment that is coded to deploy the ransomware.  Zierfuss-Hubbard warned that the malware can be transmitted through a “botnet,” which is when a network gets infected by the malware and spreads.

The best way to prevent CryptoLocker from infecting your computer is to make sure all installed software is updated, Zierfuss-Hubbard said.  If a person does not have anti-virus software on their computer, anti-virus software is available on the OIT website for download. People should also never open attachments from emails they are not expecting.

Saving files to cloud servers is not enough when it comes to countering CyrptoLocker because even these files can become encrypted. To guarantee the safety of files, backing up to an offsite server or a second hard drive is recommended. OIT is currently working to keep their domain and network secure from the malware, but it constantly gets harder and harder as programs adapt to get around new technologies. While OIT has not found a way to completely prevent CyrptoLocker, there are ways to reduce the risk of obtaining it.

Zierfuss-Hubbard stresses that the most important and effective way to prevent a computer from being infected is being aware of the problem and being careful when using a computer and surfing the web. Making sure that links are safe while surfing the web is essential, as well as never giving out personal information unless absolutely necessary and unless there is certainty that the site is not infected.

The month of October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and Zierfuss-Hubbard recommends that people check out SophosLabs YouTube channel for informational videos about staying safe on the internet. One video in particular is “Malware 101: A how-to guide for IT security beginners,” which teaches viewers how malware works and how programs detect and block malware.

For those who want more information on the CryptoLocker virus,OIT has released a virus alert, available on their website.  People whose computer might have the ransomware, or any type of malware, should contact OIT.

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