Cryptolocker is back – Ransomware beware!

Cryptolocker the planet’s worst ransomware trojan has reappeared in all its ugly forms. Across the world networks and computer files have been encrypted by this trojan before a ransom demand is made to the user or administrator. Some victims who don’t have adequate backup are losing all their files, or having to pay a ransom of thousands to the criminals who propagate this electronic curse.

Cryptolocker is propagated via infected email attachments, and via a botnet; when activated, the malware encrypts certain types of files stored on local and mounted network drives using RSA public key cryptography.  Cryptolocker itself is readily removed, however encrypted files will remain locked unless the key is provided. Worse some who have paid the ransom, have not had the key provided being left with encrypted files and a big bill. It is estimated that around 3% of affected users pay the ransom requested.

Almost a year ago the US Department of Justice announced that the FBI and Interpol had publicly issued an indictment against a Russian hacker and had gained the keys to the malware. However it appears a new version and clones such as CryptoWall and TorrentLocker are back in business,

Security software is designed to detect such threats, however it may not detect Cryptolocker at all, or only after encryption is underway or complete, particularly if a new version unknown to the protective software.

To how do you get Cryptolocker?

Email is the primary entry point for the Cryptolocker Trojan into networks and computers. Cryptolocker typically is propagated as an attachment to a seemingly innocuous e-mail message, which appears to have been sent by a legitimate company. These emails may contain company logos and representations that they are legitimate: examples in Australia and New Zealand include Australia Post, New Zealand Post, The Australian Federal Police, Microsoft, UPS parcel deliveries, and several of the major banks.

The emails tend to offer legitimate services or ask a reasonable request as simple as a payment receipt, deliver document, or in the case of the Australian Federal Police scam asking you to view a speeding fine or photo. Once the attachment is clicked, the ransomware is deployed in your systems and then encrypts files across local hard drives and mapped network drives with the public key, and logs each file encrypted to a registry key. The process only encrypts data files with certain extensions, including Microsoft OfficeOpenDocument, and other documents, pictures, and AutoCAD files.

If you think you have Cryptolocker?

Once the execution file for the encryption is completed it is almost impossible to unlock files without the key. If you suspect that you have clicked on a cryptolocker email it is important to shut down as soon as possible. The malware invades all mapped drives of the network, so any connected backup or external drives can be infected, as well other machines on the network can also catch the virus, so keeping the machine off and isolated is a very important part of reducing damage.

Once your machine is encrypted it is really a matter of isolating the machine from all networks, keep it turned off and disconnected from the internet. It then becomes a matter of determining the damage & spread, & if backups are available. It is  a great time to call an IT Expert, like Computer Troubleshooters, who can advise the appropriate course of action, be it restoring the machine with backup, or paying the ransom (and in both cases removing the Cryptolocker virus) .

How to prevent a Cryptolocker infection?

Prevention – don’t open or click on unsolicited emails

  • Educate everyoneon the risk of opening email attachments that they shouldn’t. They may receive an email that they weren’t expecting or something may look wrong about it. These emails can also come from a spoofed account that may look legitimate or even appear to be from someone you know. The bottom line is to always be careful when opening email attachments.

Here is a our Checklist to protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Business from Cyptolocker

In both our professional and private lives, each of us needs to assume responsibility for our online activities. These responsibilities involve a combination of equipment maintenance and software updates coupled with appropriate online behavior and a constant vigilance against criminal activities. We suggest that you start with this brief checklist:

  • Maintain a Clean Machine by running the most recent operating system, security software, apps and web browser as a defense against online threats such as viruses and malware.
  • Security Software – every computer should have internet security protection to help detect Cryptolocker, it may also limit the harm done by warning you before the file is executed, should you accidently click on a host email.
  • Firewalls and Encryption should be in use by businesses to secure their internet connection. Educate employees about passwords and internet security guidelines.
  • Scams, Spam, and Phishing are hazards you can avoid. Don’t open e-mailed attachments from strangers and never click on unknown links contained within e-mails. Enable the filters on your e-mail programs to screen for spam. Beware of messages indicating upgrades, technical updates and special offers. These tactics are no longer limited to e-mail, so be vigilant when on social networking sites.
  • Have a Backup to non networked drive – either rotate external drives or have off site scheduled backup. Beware of using sync backups such as OneDrive as they can also be encrypted.

Computer Troubleshooters Can Help Your Business with Cyber Security

Computer Troubleshooters can do an assessment of your business’ computer network. We can also provide recommendations for establishing a strategic approach to cyber security and assist you with a variety of solutions to reduce the risk of a security breach.  We strongly encourage you to prepare your business for the threat of a cyber security crime, contact your local Computer Troubleshooters office today for help and advice.

Want to Fall in Love with Your Computer Again?

The Thrill is Gone – do you remember that classic blues song? It’s a heart-breaking reminder about the loss of a once exhilarating and passionate connection. It’s a bitter realization when the old spark seems gone forever. Somehow over time, all the previous excitement has simply fizzled out. Excuse us, but we are talking about your relationship with your computer!

How is Your Relationship with Your PC?

Yes, even your formerly beloved computer can slow down over time until the thrill is most definitely gone. Honestly, does your computer seem unresponsive, sluggish and outdated? Are those exciting new models starting to turn your head? Maybe you and your cranky computer just need a little professional help to rekindle that old flame.

Tips on Learning to Love Your PC Again

It’s very likely that the relationship between you and your computer is salvageable, it just needs a little extra attention. Try these steps to put some zip back in the relationship with your computer:

  • Slow Startup? Does it take your computer way too long to wake up and get started with the day’s tasks? It’s possible that there are too many non-critical programs launching during the startup process. Streamline the start-up process by consulting with a technology professional who can identify unnecessary programs that are slowing down the functioning of your computer. Cutting back on these boot problems should speed things along.
  • Is Your PC Bloated? PC makers often throw in a lot of free tools. Initially, it sounds good to have all of those freebies, but a lot of techies call those freebies “bloatware” for a good reason. It’s possible your PC is running slowly because of bloat. If these free programs aren’t helping you, removing them might lighten the load on your computer.
  • Ready to add RAM? Does it seem like your old PC is in a perpetual state of sleep-walking? Is it nearly overwhelmed every time it has to open a spreadsheet? If yes, then maybe it’s time to spend a few bucks and add more RAM or memory. To assess your current RAM status, check System Properties to see what you have onboard. How much RAM should you add? Do you simply surf the net and check your e-mail or do you have a kid who’s a high speed gaming fanatic? Have a technology professional properly assess your needs and add the required RAM to your PC.
  • Is Your PC Ready for a Second Life? Didn’t everyone’s grandmother use the phrase – “don’t throw good money after bad?” At some point, it’s probably not worth pumping more money into a really old PC. That doesn’t mean it can’t still enjoy a second life as something other than your smoking hot primary computer. Turn it into a secondary computer. Do you love “old-school” gaming, then check into those older games that can run on your older operating system. You can also donate it to a local school, daycare center or charity organization if it’s not completely ancient.
  • Time to Retire and Recycle? If your old PC is not even up to enjoying a second life, maybe it’s time to pull the plug. If you are going to retire your PC, remember to be responsible to both the environment and yourself. First, be sure to eliminate all of your data from the PC. Deleting files, emptying the recycle bin or reformatting the hard drive is not enough to cover your tracks. Even the browser’s cache, cookies and e-mail contacts can contain sensitive information. Don’t jeopardize your digital security. Contact a technology professional for assistance with secure data removal. Also, be environmentally responsible and never toss an unwanted PC in a dumpster. Recycle the equipment through a reputable recycler.

Improve Your Relationship with Your Computer

Those lyrics, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with,” can also apply to computers. If you can’t afford a new computer at this time, it’s very likely that your current computer can be improved with some professional maintenance. Computer Troubleshooters can help you increase the efficiency of an older PC with a little TLC and maybe some added RAM. Consider a deep cleaning to remove unnecessary programs that are doing nothing but slowing down the functioning of your PC. Contact us now and we will be happy to evaluate the status of your current computer.

Microsoft Server 2003: End of Life July 2015?

Microsoft have confirmed that they will end support for their popular Server 2003 product range on the 14th of July 2015. It was first released on April 24, 2003. An updated version, Windows Server 2003 R2, was released on December 6, 2005. This product range also includes Small Business Server 2003.

These products were aimed towards the small to medium-sized businesses. Supporting file and printer sharing, secure Internet connectivity, centralised desktop application deployment, and in the case of Small Business Server the addition of Microsoft Exchange (email) and SQL (database).

When Microsoft ceases support for Server 2003 they will no longer issue security updates or software patches for any version of Server 2003. If you continue to use this product it will be like basing your business on a piece of equipment that is 12 years old, no longer serviced, and who the manufacturer no longer provides parts.

Ultimately businesses who continue to use Server 2003 will take on declining performance & escalating risk over time.

Upgrade or your business systems due to Security and Compliance Issues

If you are still using Server 2003 or Small Business Server 2003, you should take this situation seriously or your business will be negatively impacted with some significant consequences. You should consider the following information as you make your Server 2003 migration plan.

  • Security Risks:The biggest problem is the security threat to your business. Without the security provided by an updated operating system, all of your business data and personal information is vulnerable to harmful viruses and spyware. There is a strong likelihood that malicious viruses will be developed & unleashed on Server 2003 once it is no longer supported. No business owner wants to think about a being attacked by Malware or their business not being able to function properly.
  • Compliance Issues:For many businesses, continuing to operate a non supported software can result in compliance issues leading to the suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organisation’s inability to securely maintain its systems and customer information. Compliance problems can place your business in legal peril and seriously damage your business’ reputation.
  • Upgrade Expenses:As a business owner trying to control costs, do you think an upgrade will be too expensive? Think again. The problems that are likely to arise can cost your business significantly more than the upgrade.

The good news is that Microsoft provides a number of alternatives that may suit your situation & budget.

So what are the alternatives for your business?

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 – Windows Server 2012 R2 offers a lengthy list of improvements compared with Windows Server 2003, including integrated virtualization, better security, extensive scalability, new operational roles, script execution capabilities, and far more. While it is a substantial learning curve to move directly from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 R2, customers are well advised to not make an interim upgrade to Windows Server 2008 as that product has already gone to end of mainstream support in January 2015. Licensing & hardware investment can be significant to facilitate this migration.
  • Office 365 – This is a Microsoft cloud hosted version of much of the server software product plus it can be provisioned with the full range of Office software such as Email Outlook, Word, PowerPoint & Excel. By subscribing to this per user per month service you can avoid investing in new hardware, on site running costs (such as electricity, rent, air con, security) & for larger companies in house IT staff. Smooth migration from Server 2003 to office 365 requires professional user management and ongoing administration much like a server, but without the critical infrastructure management (Microsoft does this in their data center), so IT support can more easily be outsourced.
  • Microsoft Azure – This is a hosted server product that Microsoft has developed for IT integrators to host server infrastructure centrally and control locally, so software & application can be deployed & managed on an individual rather than collective basis. An Office 365 & Azure hybrid (using virtualization) may be a practical alternative for industries that have developed applications that are reliant on 32 bit technology that was the core of the 2003 product and may not be compatible with the 64 bit technology

Do you have a Server Migration plan in place?

Microsoft has flagged this drop dead date for support for a serious reason, so this is not a situation you can simply ignore. It’s happening on July 14 2015, so mark your calendar. Most large organisations have been working on their migration plans for years. For small-medium sized business owners, the hour is getting late so we strongly encourage you to take action today!

Computer Troubleshooters encourages you to take this situation seriously and develop a migration plan immediately. Our experts can help you understand your migration options and work with you to develop an upgrade strategy for your business. Contact us today before you run out of time.

2014 Christmas Office Hours

Our office will be closing down for the Christmas break at 4:30pm on Friday the 19th of December, although we will not be able to book any workshop jobs in afterThursday the 16th of December.

If you have any computer repairs you would like completed within the workshop please make sure they are booked in before this date. Otherwise we cannot guarantee that your computer repair would be able to be completed before we close for the holiday season.

The office will be open again from 9am on Monday the 5th of January. During this time we will have an on call technician available to our managed HOST and BEST clients for emergency support during this time.

For any urgent enquiries during the office closing time, please don’t hesitate to contact us on (03) 928 2150.

Data Backup is More Important Than Ever

Do you think a data backup solution is simply too expensive for your business?

That viewpoint is similar to thinking that insurance for your home is too expensive. Insurance might have seemed expensive until your home is wiped out in a fire and you have lost everything. After the fire is snuffed out, how do you plan to recover? Some things can probably be replaced, but regardless of the expense, certain things are simply irreplaceable. It’s similar to protecting another key asset – your business data. Even in business, certain data, documents, photographs, accounting files and client information might be nearly impossible to replace. When it comes to business data, are you safeguarding your most important company asset with a reliable backup solution?

What Causes Data Loss?

Any device that stores information is vulnerable to data loss. The causes of data loss are due to a wide range of human errors, technology failures and unpredictable natural disasters. Frequently floods, fires, tornados, earthquakes and lightning strikes destroy both the device and the data. Natural disasters are often followed by power failures that can also wreak havoc on technology.

The theft of equipment and attacks by hackers are widespread problems.

Laptop and mobile devices are small, valuable and easily re-sold, making them the target of choice for thieves all over the world. Each year in the United States, over 600,000 laptops are stolen with over 65% never recovered. Hackers, viruses, software bugs and cyber-attacks grab the most media attention, but it’s actually human error and hardware failures that account for nearly 75% of all data loss occurrences.

Data Loss Can Cost Your Business More Than You Ever Imagined

If you don’t have a backup strategy in place because you considered it too expensive, let’s redefine the term “expensive.” As a business owner, try to imagine what it would cost or if your company could even operate without your business data including QuickBooks files, client records and order information. Consider the time and expense of attempting to recreate the lost data and notifying your customers that their personal data has been compromised? If those scenarios sound terrible, then review these truly sobering data loss statistics and consider the impact this could have on your business if you don’t have a tested backup solution:

  • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within a year. (National Archives and Records Administration)
  • 94% of companies suffering from catastrophic data loss do not survive. 43% never reopen and 51% close within 2 years. (University of Texas)
  • 30% of all businesses that have a major fire go out of business within a year and 70% fail within 5 years. (Home Office Computing Magazine)
  • 70% of small companies (fewer than 100 employees) that experience major data loss go out of business within a year. (DTI/Price Waterhouse Coopers)
  • 96% of business workstations are not being backed up and are at serious risk. (Contingency Planning and Strategic Research Corporation)
  • 140,000 hard drives crash each week in the United States. (Mozy Online Backup)

Be Prepared with a Backup Solution

Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of this mixed bag of data loss disasters. The only plan is be proactive in safeguarding your business’ data with a tested backup solution. To take action with a backup solution, start by analyzing the needs of your business.

For example, do you need to back up your business’ entire operating system or just certain, essential data? Do you want the automatic data backup performed on a daily or weekly basis? Would a desktop backup device be an option for your business or home office? Which cloud storage or online solutions provide a secure remote backup solution that can complement your local backup strategy? Have you considered a personal cloud as a backup solution?

The backup market is huge and is continuing to grow. For business owners, that means there are lots of backup options with many solutions. Plus a reliable backup solution is not really that expensive when you consider the alternatives. We understand that sifting through options and technical details can be a daunting task. You should rely on your local Computer Troubleshooters to develop a customized backup solution or confirm that your current solution is exceeding your needs.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is certainly true when it comes to a backup protection plan for your business”.