Computer criminals have a new weapon in their arsenal. No longer do they need to send out phishing emails in the hope that you'll fall for the scam and hand over your bank details. The new technique is a lot less subtle, but much more lucrative.
CryptoLocker is a new breed of malware, which is being distributed across the world by spammers sending out email messages. If you inadvertently click on the link within the email, and download the malware, it encrypts all of the files on your PC. The only place where the decryption key is stored is on the spammers' own servers, and it's only held there for 72 hours. To get it, you need to send a few hundred dollars. If you don't do so within the time limit, your files are gone forever.
This isn't the first time that so-called ransomware has been seen, but it's the first time that its distribution has been so widespread and organized. And what's so worrying about this malware is that, as well as encrypting the files on your own PC, it also tries to attack files on other connected drives too, such as the computers on your network. And, most importantly, your backups that might be held on cloud-based services such as Dropbox.
To help protect yourself from malware of this kind, there are 3 things you should do. First, make sure your antivirus software is up to date. Second, take a backup and store it on an offline device such as a USB removeable drive, which is not permanently accessible from your PC. Finally, check out an excellent article at http://grahamcluley.com/2013/11/cryptolocker-protect/ to learn more.
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