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Computing Corner: The Ransomware Virus

May 2, 2016 Business, Community No Comments
Ran Eytan

Ran Eytan

By Ran Eytan

We all know it is essential to perform regular backup of our computer data. The consequences of not doing so, can be drastic. Read on to find out more…

This story of a recent experience should serve as a cautionary tale about the importance of backing up data.

A week or so ago, I got a computer from a customer with the Ransomware  virus. The damage it had caused was so bad that it had infiltrated the computer and encrypted all files and data, including pictures, documents, music video and mail. Every time I attempted to open the files or perform any basic function, it gave the same message that all the file were  damaged. The message stated clearly that the initial cost to release the encryption was $500 providing it was paid within the next 120 hours. After that time, the price would go up to $1000. On top of that, the message warned that if the payment was not made within two weeks, there would no longer be any chance to remove the permanent encryption.

My advice to the customer was not to pay the money and somehow come to terms with the loss of the material. Her viewpoint was that the data was so important to her that she was ready to pay. With her decision made, she asked me to take care of the money transfer on her behalf.

It turned out that as a resident of Connecticut, paying for the Ransomware virus to be removed is not just a complicated but almost impossible task. The only form of payment the scammers are ready to accept is Bitcoins, a form of virtual money. This method is chosen to prevent the creators of the virus from being identified. After hours of research and failed attempts, I found out that purchasing Bitcoins in the state of Connecticut is extremely challenging . First you have to open an account which requires verification by email. I did this on at least 10 sites to be told on all of them that $30 is the maximum dollar amount that can be purchased by Connecticut residents in Bitcoins.

Eventually I contacted a company that specializes in data retrieval out of Arizona. They agreed to purchase the Bitcoins for me; of course at a high rate of commission on their end of the deal. Two days later I got a message that the Bitcoins had been received by the scammers and that the transfer was pending. Two more days later I received a tool with a code which was supposed to release the encrypted files. The tool ran for 6 hours at my end, after which the files were actually released.

However, this was still not the end of the saga. A serious problem remained concerning the file names. Each file that had been released had the original name but with the added prefix “Decrypted”. In effect this doubled the amount of data in the computer and completely filled up the hard drive. To restore the computer and files to their state before the Ransomware encryption, I needed to delete the encrypted files and to remove the word “decrypted” at the beginning of each name. Other problems arose during his process, which are too many to mention. On top of all that ,  it was also necessary to do a factory restore to the computer and to re-install all the programs.

The take-away from this tale ….. a good backup of the data would have prevented all this anguish and great expense to the customer  . As a reminder, keep in mind that one of the best ways to perform reliable back up is to get a USB hard drive and copy the data from the computer. It is essential to disconnect the drive from the computer at the end of the back up to keep the data secure. Another, easier way to do the back up is to the Cloud. For this purpose, I recommend  iDrive.com, a company I have been working with for the past  six years. They are located in the United States, and for $60 a year, they provide 1 TB which is a very large storage space. There are other cheaper Chinese sites, but if there is sensitive data on your computer, I suggest avoiding such riskier options.

 

The above article is written as community service from Computers To Go, LLC of Canton.

 

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