Computer Virus Holds Your Files Hostage for Ransom

Another variant of the dangerous Cryptolocker virus is sweeping around cyberspace. It is called CryptoWall and like Cryptolocker it encrypts your files so that you cannot access them until a ransom is paid… that’s right, a ransom. Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware programs are very helpful but they are never 100% secure. If they were then one company would have cornered the market and we would not hear about viruses as much as we do today. The best defense will always be caution and scrutiny on the user’s part. This particular ransomware is propagating through the web and emails
As for the web:
• When perusing through social media chatter it’s common for anyone to see something interesting and click on a link. It’s important to scrutinize the source of the link (where did it come from, who posted it). And a trick that I like to employ is I hover (without clicking) the mouse over the link. When you do that you’ll see a pop up on the page (sometimes bottom left corner) that will show you where that link is directing you. If the address looks uncommon then it’s a good idea not to click on the link.
• Be careful of the messages you open in social media. Do you know this person? Is it a dire message trying to get your assistance immediately? Does the message come across as vague yet contains “important” links? All of these indicators are things to look for when checking your social media messages.
• The message is always the same. We have to be cautious when using social media because it is a terrific place for people to network and catch up but it’s also a playground for malicious code and hackers. The bad guys are counting on us to be curious and overall unable to recognize something that looks odd or out of place.
As for emails:
• Always keep an eye on attachments that are sent to you. Typically you will receive PDFs, Word Documents, Excel Spreadsheets and pictures. You should always scrutinize an attachment if it’s a .zip file. A zip file is a compressed file that senders use to “roll up” a file or several files into one document. Opening a malicious zip file will release the virus. If it’s a zip file from someone that you’ve been corresponding with then chances are it’s okay. You might want to even ask them before opening if they did indeed send you the zip file. If it’s a zip file from a business or unknown sender then red flags should pop up immediately.
• EXE files are worse (.exe). These files execute malicious code as soon as you open them. If you receive an email with an .exe file attached then you should not open it at all. If it’s from someone that you know, you should inquire about it, otherwise delete the email.
• If you receive any type of attachment that you’re not familiar with then you should heavily scrutinize it and ask the sender before opening if they did indeed send it to you.
• If you receive emails with links in the body I would again use the hover technique to see where the link takes you. For example, if you get a terrific email offer from a business then hover over the link to see if the site actually goes to that business’ domain. Or better yet, just open up your browser and go to the business’ main site and search for the offer there.
• One helpful tip, if you ever receive a suspect email, try opening it on a non-Windows smartphone. It’s no secret that Windows is the most prevalent Operating System on the market. So it makes sense that most viruses are designed to execute on Windows based Operating Systems. Although this is NOT a failsafe way, it can help in a pinch if you’re unsure about a particular email.
• Again, the bad guys are counting on us to be curious and naïve. So we should always exercise caution when opening emails.
The main point is, let’s be careful and cautious. The best defense is between your ears. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

About The Author

Laura Hack

Laura Hack

Laura Hack is a paralegal with Terrell • Hogan. She has been with the firm since 1996 and has worked primarily for Wayne Hogan. She is an experienced Paralegal with 30+ years of working in the law practice industry. Skilled in Appeals, Civil Trial Litigation Support, Torts, Trial Practice, and Pleadings.