Alert! Cryptowall 2 Ransomware Malware Is Out There!!

Once more, Bob Rankin’s blog “Ask Bob Rankin” alerts us to a recent outbreak of a ransomware malware called “Cryptowall 2.”

Bob goes on to say that “Making regular backups of critical data and keeping your software up to date is more important than ever thanks to the arrival of new, “improved” malware like Cryptowall 2. This update to a well-known ransomware exploit is making life miserable for business and personal computer users worldwide.”

Cryptowall 2 is a variant of the CryptoLocker virus, which was created and launched last summer by cybercriminals, and the authorities were able to successfully shut down that threat. However, this new Cryptowall 2 is out there and is dangerous.

Bob states “Like its predecessor, Cryptowall 2 encrypts everything on an infected hard drive and displays a “ransom note” to the hapless user. The extortion is simple: pay several hundred dollars by a specified deadline or you’ll never get the key that unlocks your encrypted data. The payment method is anything but simple for the typical victim.

“Cryptowall 2 is elaborately designed to avoid detection by security software and to conceal the identities and locations of its masters. Part of this stealth strategy is to require ransom payment in Bitcoin, the virtual crypto-currency. Most citizens and even IT geeks have no clue how to get Bitcoin; even if you know, converting real currency into Bitcoin is not convenient or fast.”

Bob goes on to say that “As if that isn’t enough, a Cryptowall 3 version appeared in recent days. Its only “improvement” seems to be the addition of the Invisible Internet Project (I2P) proxy network to the things that can go wrong with a payment attempt. The payment link provided by Cryptowall runs a victim through several Tor proxies and then hands the connection off to I2P, which has its own ways of failing.”

We cannot emphasize enough how critical it is to back up your data regularly, and to be very cautious about clicking on links or opening emails from unknown sources. The best way to deal with Cryptowall is to avoid it at all costs. That means keeping your defenses up on all fronts. Think before you click on unknown links or email attachments. Keep your operating system and application software up to date with security patches. Use a comprehensive internet security suite that watches for things like Cryptowall in email, Web, external storage devices, and every other vector by which malware can enter your system.

Bob recommends these links to learn how and where you can get free tools to protect your computer:

He also recommends an extra layer of protection using a program called CryptoPrevent, which modifies some Windows settings to prevent infection by Cryptolocker and related malware. Note that there are both Free and Premium versions of CryptoPrevent.

You can see the entire blog post on Bob’s blog here: Ransomware Strikes Again.

I remain respectfully yours,

~ Suzanne Piers, ZI Social Media

PUPs Aren’t Always Cute

Computer virusThere is a great article on Ask Bob Rankin’s blog (that’s a clickable link there) about unwanted software that is installed on your computer. Bob Rankin describes it as “‘PUP’ [Potentially Unwanted Program] means malware; it’s software that I never wanted, didn’t deliberately install, and that makes my life more difficult.”

Bob goes on to say, “The consensus among definitions of ‘PUPs’ is that they sneak into your system; they ride on the coattails of legitimate programs, or pretend to be something they are not, or don’t fully disclose some of the things they’re going to do. Dirty-underhandedness is the hallmark of a PUP. There is no “potential” about its undesirability; I don’t want sneaky software on my machine, period.”

Apparently political correctness has extended into the software developer world, as Bob mentions that the term PUP, or Potentially Unwanted Program was invented to avoid offending their creators. Bob states that its true name is “malware” — which by definition is a term for “malicious software,” and which refers to software programs designed to damage or do other unwanted actions on a computer system. While not all PUPs are developed for malicious purposes, they are often there to perform unwanted, even if benign, actions on your computer.

This makes me think of when I do updates for Adobe Flash Player or other such programs on my computer. I tend to click quickly through all the “do you agree”s in order to just get it done, but the Adobe Flash Player surreptitiously has the box pre-checked for “Yes I want to download and install this MacAfee Security Plus program” and if you click too fast, you’ll get that program installed on your computer. I think that the PUPs that Bob is referring to in this article are more insidious than that, but it is a program that is unwanted by me, which I then immediately delete. Caveat emptor when downloading updates.

In this lengthy but well worth reading article, Bob talks about PUPs, their purpose and how to avoid these relatively harmless but annoying software being downloaded onto your computer, and how to get rid of them if they are there.

You can find the article in full, click on this link: Alert: Potentially Unwanted Software

I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers, ZI Social Media