If you haven’t heard much about ransomware and malicious viruses lately, well, you may not be paying close enough attention. In November, a county government in Indiana paid $21,000 to cybercriminals after its systems were infected by a version of the Crypto virus that’s plagued the Internet for years. In February, a Hollywood hospital forked over $17,000 in Bitcoins to regain control of its data. And just last week, a sheriff’s office in Arkansas coughed up $2,400 to unlock the systems encrypted by hackers.
Even more terrifying is a recent ransomware variant called Popcorn Time that uses a shocking new pyramid scheme-style system to increase infections: the software transforms victims into attackers by offering them a way to bypass paying the ransom — if they willingly pass on the malicious link to their contacts and two or more of them install it and infect their own computers.
Reports have begun surfacing about a similarly nefarious virus delivered via fake DocuSign email requests. Users who click on the link assuming it’s a legitimate document they need to sign will have their email accounts immediately infected, with the virus then scanning every single contact in Microsoft Outlook to deliver the same infected email. Like Popcorn Time, the new DocuSign request looks like it’s coming from the infected user’s real account, tricking contacts into clicking on it and becoming infected themselves.
The virus then deletes those contacts and creates an Outlook rule to send all incoming emails to the trash so that the infected sender will remain unaware that they have a problem. As of this week, common anti-virus programs have missed these fake DocuSign requests, and without a reliable data backup solution in place, the deleted contacts and calendars are not recoverable from within Microsoft Outlook.
Feeling frustrated about the widespread scourge of ransomware, malware, and computer viruses is justified. But it’s also smart to direct some of that energy toward proactive protection of your technology and critical business information.
Most email programs let you preview a link by hovering over it with your cursor. If the domain name that appears has no connection to the sender of the email (say, something other than DocuSign.com in that DocuSign email request) or it shows up as an incomprehensible list of letters and numbers, it’s probably not safe to click. Any legitimate email from an organization will redirect you to a link with that company’s actual domain name in the URL address.
Hackers use a variety of delivery methods for malware and ransomware: PDFs, ZIP files, audio files that look like their voicemail messages, shipping, or banking notifications… The bottom line is, if you aren’t expecting a specific attachment from a specific sender, NEVER open any file that arrives with an email you aren’t sure about.
If you do get infected by ransomware, there are only two ways to regain access to your data: 1) by paying a ransom to a shadowy cybercriminal or 2) by retrieving your backed-up information, wiping your infected system clean, and starting fresh with the critical data that was (hopefully) backed up that very same day.
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