How to Protect Your Computer from the CryptoLocker Virus
The CryptoLocker virus is one of the most recent and most widespread viruses, infecting over 12,000 computers in just one week. The bad news is that once it succeeds in encrypting your personal files, it asks for a $300 ransom or else you will lose all of your files forever. The CryptoLocker malware has been more successful at causing damage than other viruses for a number of reasons. Here are a few of the ways that it infects a computer and how you can counter the virus.
Opening an Email
The first way this virus reaches you is through an email. Think you are already careful about opening suspicious emails? The CryptoLocker emails come disguised as a UPS or FedEx email with a tracking notification. (In other words, it looks like it is from a source you trust or even expect an email from). Not only do you have to open the email, but you also have to open and download the zip file inside the email.
You can prevent the CryptoLocker infection and other viruses simply by verifying the sender before you open any attachments or links. For example, go to UPS’s official website first to track your shipment or call your local UPS office rather than opening a file in an email.
Running Antivirus Software
The CryptoLocker malware affects PCs with various operating systems: Windows 7, Vista, XP, and possibly even Windows 8 or Mac operating systems. Run your antivirus software now and frequently throughout the year. Antivirus software can often prevent and stop viruses before they damage your files. However, that may not be the cure.
Protecting Personal Files
When you download the zip file from the email, it releases a double-extension file (e.g. .pdf.exe). Part of that extension will run constantly on your computer, encrypting and damaging all of your personal files so that they will be deleted forever if you do not pay up. One way to ensure your files are protected from the CryptoLocker or other malware is by backing up all of your files on a regular basis. Keep backups on a separate or external hard drive where they will not be touched by a virus entering your computer.
Eradicating the Virus
If you are already a victim of the CryptoLocker virus or another virus, you need to get rid of it. Some people say that paying the ransom to the hackers works and that they can get their files back. However, getting rid of the infection is the best way to protect yourself now and in the future.
Even if the malware warns you not to disconnect from the Internet or turn off your computer, these are the first things you should do. Unplug the computer and you may save some files while also stopping the virus from spreading. Work with an antivirus provider to clean up your computer. If your files are backed up, restore them to your computer once it is clean.