Ransomware has been in the news headlines recently, which suggests more virus writers are wanting to get in on this money spinning type of hack. I wrote a blog post about this sort of virus in 2013
What is a Cryptovirus or Ransomware
Though not strictly a virus, ransomware like most unwanted pieces of software is installed when you click on an infected document, link or attachment. The moral of the story, if you are not expecting a file or link do not click on it. Once infected with ransomware, your PC will sit and quietly encrypt all of your documents, photos and files. It will then send the key needed to unencrypt them to the hacker. Next time you want to use one of your files and message will appear asking you to pay to unlock your documents (the ransom).
Because the encryption was encoded with a key that now only exists on the hackers computer, it is very unlikely that anyone will be able to unlock them for you. So your only options are to
pay the ransom or go back to a previous back of your files, you do have back ups, don’t you?. *(I wouldn’t recommend paying a ransom)
I’m on a Mac I’m safe right?
Well, this month has seen the first confirmed Mac ransomware hit the wild with the ‘KeRanger.A‘. Luckily it was found in a piece of software that would be installed on few Macs. Apple moved very quickly to block the exploit and so only a small number of people are likely to have been affected this time.
What can I do?
If you receive an email asking you to click on a link or open a document think twice. Is this really a legitimate email, or has a scammer made it look like a real email? Do not rely on logos as the scammers have become very good a mimicking emails that appear to be from your bank or even a Gmail ‘security check’.
I suggest that any email asking you to ‘recover your password’ or ‘update your details’ be given a fair amount of scepticism. If you can type in the address of the site manually in to the address bar of your browser, do so. Failing that google for the sites main page so you can log in on the real site. Most reputable companies will notify you once you are logged in if there was any real requirement to update your information.
It’s starting to feel a bit like the Wild West online these days, be careful out there.