Malware and viruses are a day to day hazard of doing business over the internet, but just occasionally one pops up that poses a significant threat to internet users, and in this case small and medium size businesses as tens of millions of internet users could be at risk from “ransom” email spam seemingly sent from financial institutions.
The email has an attachment that looks legitimate but is malware that encrypts computer files.
If the attachment is opened, a displayed countdown timer demands a ransom to decrypt the files.
Global agencies world wide have marked this as a major risk for companies, and Lee Miles, deputy head of the National Cyber Crime Unit in the UK, says: “The NCA are actively pursuing organised crime groups committing this type of crime. We are working in co-operation with industry and international partners to identify and bring to justice those responsible and reduce the risk to the public.”
The malware installs a piece of “ransomware” called Cryptolocker on computers running the Windows operating system. The ransom demands that the user pay two Bitcoins, a virtual currency, that would be worth £536 to release the decryption key. Reports suggest that people who have paid the ransom have not had their files decrypted and it has been impossible to restore encrypted files.
The NCA said it would never endorse the payment of a ransom to criminals and warns that there is no guarantee that the people behind the demand would honour the payments.
An NCCU investigation in the UK is seeking to identify the source of the email addresses used.
So, do not to click on any suspicious attachments, and ensure you have updated antivirus software and to regularly back up files. We backup our files every night on to the cloud as well as having a local copy. If a computer is infected the advice is to disconnect it from the network and seek professional help to clean the device.
So be prepared and avoid this problem by using a few sensible precautions. That way you can enjoy the run up to Christmas and the New Year without having any unnecessary headaches!