Finally, some good news on the cybersecurity front: after almost nine months of CryptoLocker infecting over 200,000 systems and extracting astronomical ransom payments from affected users, the cybercriminal ring responsible for the virus was broken up in early June 2014. The bust, spearheaded by private security experts, the FBI, the European Cybercrime Centre, and officials from over a dozen other countries, identified Russian hacker Evgeniy Mikhaylovich Bogachev as the ringleader of both CryptoLocker and the Gameover Zeus virus, which specialized in the theft of banking information and served as a conduit for further CryptoLocker infection.
After seizing control of the botnets used by Bogachev and his gang, the Justice Department estimated that close to a million machines were infected by one of the two viruses—with over $100 million in total ransoms paid via Bitcoin. $27 million of that came directly from CryptoLocker, which encrypted a user’s data and then required a passkey to decrypt it.
Unfortunately, the police action was limited; Bogachev himself has only been charged, not arrested, since Russia doesn’t extradite accused criminals to other countries. The U.K.’s National Crime Agency said that they expected the cyber hitmen responsible for CryptoLocker and Gameover Zeus to regroup in as little as two weeks and launch new botnets that could allow them to spread new infections.
Are we all doomed to live in constant threat of malware infection and compromised security? Those possibilities will always exist, but the outlook isn’t all doom and gloom. If CryptoLocker, Gameover Zeus, or any other malware has infected one of your computers, there’s a chance that a trusted IT professional can help you clean it up and return it to normal health.
The best cure is to take preventative measures before a virus strikes. As we’ve reported before in regard to CryptoLocker, proactive solutions are your best bet for keeping cybercriminals at bay.
So what can businesses do to maintain the safety and security of their IT systems?
5 Ways to Secure Your IT and Prevent CryptoLocker Virus Attacks
1) Implement regular, remote backups and a disaster recovery plan. CryptoLocker thrives on individuals and companies that have only one version of their critical data located on one machine. Imagine what would happen to your business if all of its important files were suddenly locked down with no hope of getting them back. You might even entertain paying an outrageous ransom to Russian cybercriminals to get them back. Having a service that plans for the worst is essential to keep your business protected.
2) Never open ANY attachments from ANY sender you don’t recognize. Email-based malware attempts keep getting sneakier, arriving in the form of what looks like social media or shipping notifications, PDFs, voicemail files, and even fake user handles attached to recognizable domain names (including your own!). NEVER open an attachment unless you know the person sending it to you and you’re expecting a file on the topic mentioned.
3) Validate ANY links from ANY unfamiliar email addresses before clicking on them. Most email applications and online browser-based services allow you to preview a link by moving your cursor over it. Look out for domain names that have no relation to the sender of the email, unfamiliar user handles in front of trusted domain names, or links that appear as an incoherent string of letters and numbers.
4) Disconnect from your network connection immediately. If you do click on something unsafe and receive a CryptoLocker message, turn off the Wi-Fi on your computer and/or unplug it from your hard-wired internet connection. While this won’t save your computer and files from infection, it could spare any network your machine is connected to (and all the other computers connected to that same network) from suffering the same fate.
5) Make sure your antivirus and anti-spam software are up to date. Some antivirus products have helped to detect infected files before they take hold of your computer. And a good anti-spam software program can often identify malicious emails and remove them from your inbox, thus reducing the risk you or an employee might accidentally click on them.
CryptoLocker and its relatives like Gameover Zeus are some of the most devastating viruses to appear in recent years. If you want to enjoy unparalleled levels of protection, contact CMIT Solutions today so that you can put our backup, disaster recovery, system monitoring, and encryption tools to work for you.