Tech-Friendly: CryptoLocker malware on the loose — update your anti-virus software and beware of e-mail attachments

By Paul Gorski

I had a perfectly nice, upbeat Tech-Friendly article in the works when traditional and Internet news sources flooded the tech news columns this week with gloom and doom regarding a relatively new piece of Windows malware: CryptoLocker.

CryptoLocker is a “trojan horse,” and not a “virus,” technically, as you have to download the malware, usually from an e-mail, and it doesn’t self-replicate (a virus). It seems CryptoLocker comes to you attached to an e-mail, usually a phony e-mail pretending to be a notice from UPS or FedEx. Once you download CryptoLocker, it scans your Windows PC for your data files and encrypts them with a security key. You then get a message warning you to pay a “ransom” of $300 to release your files.

If you don’t pay the ransom, your files will remain encrypted and locked, and you will not be able to open them. You will have to recover the files from a backup if you ever want to see them again.

Practice safe computing: do not download or open e-mail attachments from unknown senders. If you have a question about the authenticity of a business e-mail, stop, and contact the business sending the e-mail. Do not call any number listed in the e-mail, as that might be phony, too. In addition, make sure your anti-virus and anti-malware programs are up to date.

You might now also try the free service, OpenDNS ( OpenDNS can help prevent CryptoLocker infection by intercepting the “call” made by the CryptoLocker software back to its home servers that issue the data lock/encryption code. Not 100 percent effective, but useful. Read “Tech-Friendly: OpenDNS — Malware blocker, faster surfing” from the June 26-July 2, 2013, issue at: for more about this service.

The CryptoLocker trojan has been out in the wild for at least a month. I’m not quite sure why the press is jumping on the story now. I suspect that some e-mail services are not scanning for this malware and the infection rate is higher than it should be. More information about CryptoLocker may be found at:

Related Tech-Friendly articles include the following:

Tech-Friendly: Be wary of links from unknown senders,” (

Tech-Friendly: Update your browser for safe computing,” (

Tech-Friendly: Install Java and Flash security updates now,” (

Paul Gorski ( has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

From the Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2013, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!