You know how sometimes you click links or download things you shouldn’t? We’re not talking about the porn that “you swear you don’t know how it got there.” We’re talking about e-mails that seem like they’re coming from friends, family or coworkers, with cryptic links or basic attachments that lead to seemingly nothing.
Turns out, those links or attachments are much more sinister that we could have imagined. According to a CTV News report, a new e-mail scam is holding people’s data hostage. And it happens with the click of your mouse. What does it look like? Well, an e-mail could be something like, “could you look at my resume” with an attachment or “your invoice is ready.” It’s pretty standard stuff, but unless you are expecting files like this, don’t download them. In fact, if there is no accompanying text, ask the friend sending the e-mail (via text, via a new e-mail (don’t just reply) or by phone) if it’s in fact them. If you do download them in error, you might’ve just downloaded software and it’s not the good kind.
Basically, once you download the file, hackers can access all of your personal files and encrypt them. It’s called a CryptoLocker and it’s impossible to crack. And once they’ve done that, you are locked out from viewing your files. And it turns out, once this hack is complete, the people responsible are asking for money in exchange for a key that unlocks your files. It’s essentially digital ransom for your personal information, and it’s seriously not cool. And it’s worse if you’re on a work network, because that shared network becomes the victim, as the downloaded file will crawl across the network, encrypting everything it uncovers.
So, what can you do if you’ve downloaded the software? Well, you can run a virus scan and it should pick it up. So, you can get rid of the file, but the effects will remain. According to Ryan Rubin, MD of global risk consultancy group Protiviti, “CryptoLocker has been designed to make money using well-known, publicly available cryptography algorithms that were developed by governments and other [legitimate] bodies. Unless they have the key, you simply cannot unlock the data that is encrypted.” What’s worse is, this encryption method has “held up for more than 30 years,“ according to spokesman for Symantec Gavin O’ Gorman.
So, yeah, don’t download attachments or click links if you don’t know why you are getting them. Just because it’s easier to click a mouse, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. Watch the full report in the video above.