This article applies primarily to Windows users (any version) since virii and spyware infections are pretty much limited to Windows users at this time. However, Apple and Linux users should heed the advice that I will lay out here and help their Windows using friends and family as well.
First and foremost, EVERY Internet user should read, study, and understand the who, what, why, and how of spyware and virus infections by clicking here to read my article that gives a good primer about the current computer security situation. Be sure to read and study all the links found within this article.
Now back to the reason for writing this article: after years of virus and spyware infections primarily causing minor to moderate annoyances with little loss of data (documents, photos, email, address books, etc) and virtually no direct attack on our personal data, the tide has turned and recent infections are attacking our data.
This week, I helped a couple of clients who had a nasty variant of what is known as the FBI MoneyPak Ransomware infection. This infection locks you out of your computer and presents a screen that looks like this:
The infection tries to convince the computer user that the FBI created it. Then they demand that the computer user obtain a money card from a local store, and put the number into the screen (usually $200 or more). DON’T DO IT! It is a scam.
The method of infection is usually clicking on an infected link in an email or clicking a legitimate looking search result and getting duped into clicking into an infected website. My article linked above explains how to avoid both situations.
However, I digress again from the main reason for writing this article: this new infection is now starting to infect our data (word processing documents, spreadsheets, Quicken files, photos, music, and more). In one of the instances I saw this week, every piece of personal data the customer had a .block extension added to them. Not only did this make all the data unreadable, but from my research, there is no way to undo the encryption (security scrambling of data) that the virus incurred. Luckily my client had a backup so I was able to erase all the infected files (over 16,000 photos and documents) and restore the files from her backup.
This is extremely serious folks. Please, please read my article I linked at the beginning of this article…all of it, including the articles linked throughout. By doing so, you will be able to keep yourself safe and avoid having to use services like mine (yes, I would rather you be safe than pay me to come clean up a preventable problem and get paid for it), and most of all not lose any of your valuable digital data or money.
And to do even more, please Like this article on Facebook and pass on the link to this article to all your digital friends and family.