Terms like cryptolocker and Gameover Zeus have been appearing in news reports recently. What are they and what can do you about it?

The combination of them both is known as malware, malicious software designed to steal and destroy data on a PC. The software typically gets onto a PC by infected attachments on emails. Unwitting users run the attachments and infect their PC’s with viruses or software that allows back-door access to hackers. This software in turn means that personal and financial information can be stolen, and in some cases documents and photos can be encrypted unless money is paid to release the files. In the worst case if the ransom is not paid, the information is destroyed or rendered completely useless.

These emails containing the malware are known as ‘phishing’ emails. These appear as legitimate messages from banks, building societies, delivery companies or even friends. The email is usually worded to explain there’s a problem with an account or delivery, and that the user should download and run the attachment to either fill in a form or fix the problem. Once the attachment is run the PC is infected with the back-door access for the hackers, leaving it open for further attacks.

The malware in use has been around for a while, but the terms have been appearing prominently in the news recently as a computer hacker has been arrested and accused of running one of the major hacker groups that perpetrate this crime. The National Crime Agency (or NCA) have announced that PC users have a two week window to ensure that PC’s are clean of the malware before they feel attacks will continue.

This means that while the 14 day window is open, users that have been infected with the malware in the meantime still have time to clean the infection from their PC. It is possible to be infected with the software and not even know, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Please get in touch if you feel that your PC is at risk and you need further help or assistance. At the same time follow these tips to ensure your PC is kept as secure as possible:

  • Keep your PC up to date with the latest security and Windows Updates.
  • Consider purchasing an anti virus program or install a free tool such as Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Do not open attachments from sources you do not recognise, especially attachments that end in .zip
  • Make regular backups of important data away from your PC
  • Use software (such as malwarebytes) to check whether a PC is infected, if so disconnect from the internet and seek professional help as soon as possible.
  • If you believe your PC has been infected, change your online account passwords on a clean PC and use a secure method
  • Back up, back up back up! Half an hour spent backing up can save years worth of family photos.