CryptoLocker: What To Do If Malware Kidnaps Your Computer Files For A Ransom

December 2013: Good news! You can now decrypt CryptoLocker without paying a ransom. Follow the instructions — Leapfrog approved!

It sounds like a fun app or a kids’ Halloween party game – CryptoLocker. Instead, it’s ransomware that’s infecting computers across the US and holding hard-drive data hostage.

CryptoLocker gets onto your PC via an email attachment and runs malware that encrypts your files. To decrypt them again, you need to pay a ransom to buy the decryption key. If you don’t, you’re files are garbled forever. Yikes!

Here’s how to keep your froggy eyes on the lookout for CryptoLocker and what to do if you find yourself at its mercy:

The best defense is one word: BACKUP! Backing up regularly to an external hard drive (which you then disconnect from your computer.) makes ransomeware less scary because you have duplicate files. If you haven’t backed up in six months, well, CryptoLocker can definitely ruin your day.

Since the best defense is a good offense, backup then use these B.A.C.K.U.P. steps to avoid and remove CryptoLocker.

B: Beware of emails with attachments — an Internet Holy Grail
A: Ask the sender about an attachment you weren’t expecting. Don’t know the sender? Aha!
C: Close the connection to your network right away to protect other computers if you think yours just got infected. Also disconnect external hard drives and USB drives.
K: Kill the virus! Use Sophos.
U: Update your anti-virus software and set it to update automatically from now on.
P: Pay the ransom. Ugh. But if you don’t have a recent backup, the $300 may be worth it to you. You’ll pay through a third party like Bitcoin or MoneyPack. Reports say chances are good the kidnappers will send you the decryption key.

CryptoLocker targets victims running Windows 7, Vista, and XP operating systems, and typically gives victims three days to buy the encryption key. Future ransomware may also target other operating systems. So stay a hop ahead and BACKUP now.

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