Earlier this year, a terrible new type of malware known as ransomware began to appear.
This month, the spread of this ransomware has exploded, and new versions are even harder to detect. The Cryptolocker hijacker quietly searches through your hard drive, and any other networked drives that your computer can access including your server, finds your personal and business files and wraps them up in strong encryption.
You won’t even know that it has been installed on your system until it has finished encrypting all your files, then it will announce its presence with a brightly colored pop-up window demanding that you pay a fee of $300, before the timer runs out, to get your files back.
Many antivirus programs have not been able to catch this ransomware until it is too late.
The scarry thing about CryptoLocker is that it really does encrypt your files, and there is not a way to get them back unless you either have a backup that was not connected to your computer at the time of infection, or you pay the ransom.
Any backup drives that are connected to your computer will be encrypted, as will your server if your computer has access to it. Cloud backup services like Carbonite and Mozy will simply backup the encrypted files to their servers, so unless you can retrieve earlier versions of the files, (Carbonite keeps them for 30 days) you are out of luck.
What can you do to protect yourself from this malicous program? Here is what I did:
I took an external hard drive that is larger than my computer hard drive, and plugged it into the USB port on my computer. Then, using Acronis True Image, I clicked on the “Backup and Recovery” tab, and selected, “Disk and Partition backup”.
In the window, I checked off my local disk (C) as the source, and the USB drive as the destination.
Finally, I clicked the “Back up now” button to begin the backup.
Three hours later, when the backup was finished, I unplugged the drive from my computer, and put it away. I will repeat this process at the end of every week, and I might even get a second hard drive and alternate backups just in case one of them fails.
I urge you to find a way to backup or archive your files so that they are protected. You can use an external hard drive as long as it is not attached to your computer once the backup is finished. You could also use a USB flash drive, or burn your files to CDs or DVD, and then store them in a safe place.