By Steve McEvoy, Technology Consultant
We are seeing a fast spreading outbreak of a new virus called CryptoWall affecting many practices. Similar to the Cryptolocker virus that emerged last year, this virus seeks to encrypt all your precious data on your computer, and hold it for ransom (asking you to send them $500 USD in Bitcoin to get the decryption key).
What makes this virus so alarming is that as of a few days ago ZERO out of nearly 50 antivirus programs were able to detect it. None.
How to protect yourself
Eventually the Antivirus programs will catch up and learn how to detect it, but at this point in time you need to rely on your own wits and acting responsibly.
So far the virus has been arriving as an attachment to an email message (usually a ZIP or PDF file). We’ve seen it claiming to be airline ticket confirmations, monthly statements from the power company, shipping receipts, etc. Avoid ANY email with attachments that you are not 100% expecting. If you receive an email that you are unsure of – DON’T OPEN IT – and contact the sender by other means and confirm that they did send it to you. Reading the email doesn’t infect your PC, only opening the attachment will.
Signs that you are infected
The virus needs time to tackle the encryption. The longer it goes undetected, the more of your data it can encrypt. You will notice the PC running much slower than normal (since it is using the computers processing power to encrypt your files). You may see files named DECRYPT_INSTRUCTION.TXT and DECRYPT_INSTRUCTION.HTML on the desktop, documents, pictures, mapped drives or any location where you have data saved.
What to do if you suspect an infection
Open the DECRYPT_INSTRUCTION.HTML file and note the time remaining to decrypt your data (they only allow you a short period of time to send them the money before they destroy the data permanently). Once you have that information TURN OFF THE PC. The longer it remains online the more data it can encrypt. Do not attempt to run scans and clean the system, this only buys it more time to encrypt data. Do not connect any external drives to restore backups of data as it will attempt to encrypt your backups when it sees the drives. Contact your IT person IMMEDIATELY for their assistance in recovery.