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Ransom Crypto Locker: Your Personal Files Are Encrypted - Be Aware

26/03/2015 11:14 GMT | Updated 25/05/2015 10:59 BST

Your personal files are encrypted - BE AWARE!

I recently watched one of my favourite American shows The Good Wife, which is a legal drama based on a firm of lawyers intermixed with the world of politics on More4. I wasn't surprised to see how the firm of lawyers was being held ransom and asked to pay $1million in order to get access to their files and data. This was television so of course it happens, but not to ordinary people like me.... WRONG!

Two nights ago I clicked on what looked like a YouTube video on one of my friend's Facebook timeline and my computer seemed to shudder a little, subsequently slowed up and I instantly shut Facebook down, rebooted my personal computer and ran my scan software.

When the scan finished it identified a number of files that could not be removed. My wonderful IT support team reran Malware (which took a full day) and presented 45 infected files to me. Steve from the team suggested there were some serious Trojans but that was only the half of it. We left the machine running overnight to see if we could rid the computer of any infection.

To my horror this morning my screen was presented with a red banner stating "your personal files are encrypted! Your decryption price will be doubled on 3/29/2015 ... Time left 90:00:00', with a timer running on a countdown clock.

My initial response to be honest was to laugh out loud and say OMG... definitely an OMG moment. I was hoping to go to the gym and get some exercise once I had checked it was fully functioning again. It is now six hours later and here is what I have learned.

Every single file, photo, piece of music and even my drop box folder files were encrypted. There was no way whatsoever to attempt to retrieve them. We looked, we searched, we read the information they left on my screen but the only way to get the files back was to pay for a private key. They were clever, they insisted on bit coin payment, two bit coins to be exact, which equates to around $500 or £350.

What happened next I hear you say - I had to register for a bit coin account, and then buy two bit coins. Peter who I bought the bit coins from was duly concerned as to why I was purchasing them and I had to identify myself to prove that I was buying them for legal purposes (protecting his reputation).

These people are sophisticated in their approach with details, links, info etc. and you simply have to follow their guidelines. It was with baited breath that I decided the only way forward was to pay them - much to my disgust. Within ten minutes of them receiving the payment I received the key to decrypt my files.

Eight hours later I finally had my files back, my IT team are still restoring and clearing all the Trojans and with one final overnight scan I will be up and running again. This didn't just cost me the £350, there was IT time and more importantly there were two days of lost business, never mind the mental anguish.

By sharing this with you I hope you are more aware of this type of cyber fraud, know that it can happen to anyone and from just one simple click.

I have subsequently reported the incident to my local Surrey police - they stated they would not be taking any action. I have reported it to Action Fraud (UK 0300 123 2040) who took a detailed report; thankfully I took various photos along the way, which gave me added info to supply them with. However I won't get a report for 28 days; I'm not exactly sure of what use it will be in this technological age when changes take place in seconds.

So how do you protect yourself? Please learn from my experience what I now know is called "RANSOM CRYPTO LOCKER", and it has been taking place for some time!

KEY TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR FILES

1. DO NOT OPEN UNKNOWN LINKS, FILES OR EMAILS under any circumstances, this includes spurious videos in any form of social media, Facebook, Twitter etc.

2. Ensure you regularly back-up all your files

3. Don't assume your external drives or clouds will not be affected (they will, they got hold of mine)

4. Make sure you always update your virus software

5. Know that NO anti-virus can protect from this right now

6. If infected SEEK HELP as soon as possible

Lastly don't feel pity or sympathy for me. What you can do is share this, let your colleagues, IT teams, your family, friends and anyone else know of the RANSOM CRYTO LOCKER. This type of crime has to be stopped.

Feel free to share on twitter @ShirleyMindset