An article in the USA Today newspaper (found at highlights the problem of “cryptolocker” style virus programs. The general idea for that kind of virus is that the user is tricked into downloading the program, which then starts to encrypt every file on the users computer. Only the hacker has the key to unlock those files and he/she will give it to the user – for a fee. Usually that fee is in the low hundreds of dollars, keeping the problem from hitting the FBI or national law enforcement’s radar and making it more feasible that the average computer user can actually pay up.  Malwarebytes (a great tool that helps find viruses and other bad files on your computer) has another article that is useful for learning just what the Cryptolocker type of virus can do.

Read the articles themselves for more details on the virus – but if you just want the quick and dirty takeaway from the articles… Back up your stuff! There is no way to protect yourself once that virus is on your computer – if you see the ransom note on your machine, it’s too late. You can be super-vigilant about the software you install and the links you click from your email, but even the best of us get tricked at times and if it happens to you – you either pay up or lose your data. The only way to recover (without paying 2 or 3 hundred dollars – and even that isn’t guaranteed to get your stuff back) is to wipe the computer clean and reinstall from your backups. The USA Today article mentions a good “rule of thumb” – the 3-2-1 method. Have 3 copies of your data in 2 different media types (USB stick, CD-ROM disk, hard disk) in 1 physically separate location (a cloud backup solution would be helpful there, but just backing up weekly to a hard disk that you then take home with you from the library would work).

Feel free to contact your friendly IT folks at NEKLS if you want to get some more information on backups and strategies to deal with this un-recoverable sort of threat from the bad guys on the Internet!

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