A relatively new alarm has been sounded – ransomware. You open an e-mail purporting to be from a legitimate company, and a virus self-runs. It encrypts your files and offers you the possibility of buying the code to decrypt them.
See this Wikipedia article. This kind of stuff has been around for a few years, but the newest version is called “CryptoLocker”. When it has encrypted your data, CryptoLocker demands a payment with either a MoneyPak card or Bitcoin to recover the key and begin decrypting files, and threatens to delete the private key if a payment is not received within 3 days.
The best advice is keep your anti-virus software up to date, use anti malware software and be careful which e-mails you open or which links you click. Back up your data regularly on external hard disks, memory sticks or CD-ROM and isolate them from the computer you use with the Internet. From what I’ve read, if you catch this thing, you have only to format your hard disk and start all over again reinstalling everything and say goodbye to your data, unless it is backed up.
This appears to be sound advice. This too. It appears that paying the ransom ($300 in bitcoins) will work, as repugnant it is to let those crooks win. I hope the police get them, but if they do, will the keys be recovered?
Back up your data and don’t open suspicious e-mails.