One of my US buddies writes:
Hi Family, Friends and Clients,
There is a recent virus we all need to be aware of. It is called CryptoLocker. It is mostly spread through emails but can also be received on a web site. It currently only attacks PCs, not Macs or Linux machines but that could change at any time.
Basically it gets on your computer and then encrypts all of your files with a military grade encryption. This leaves your files in place but fully encrypted and you do not have the key to decrypt them. You cannot access these files until they are decrypted. After they encrypt your files they give you a notice and tell you where to deposit $300 and they will give you the key. No hacker has ever been able to figure out the encryption and the military is not letting others know how to do it so your files are toast without the key. There is no guarantee that you will get the encryption key even if you pay the money.
Often these types of scams/viruses/etc are used during a holiday season because people are expecting packages from UPS or FEDEX. The email says it is from one of them and tells you to click on a link to get information on your package. Clicking the link will download a file that may look something like: TrackingInformation.pdf.exe
While you may think it is a PDF file it is really an executable file which will probably throw up a fake PDF file to keep you busy will it runs the virus in the background.
If you think you made a mistake and may have mistakenly clicked on an EXE file then shut your computer down immediately by pulling the plug or hitting the power button. This will stop any program from running. Do not go through a normal shutdown as more damage can be done while shutting down and in some cases the running program can stop a normal shutdown from working. Restarting your computer may or may not work. Many viruses will install a program that runs when you start up your computer and the virus will continue doing its dirty work. Microsoft updates and updates from your anti-virus program use this method to install their fixes and updates to their programs. That is why they require you to reboot your computer. They need to do things before the programs that protect your computer from changes starts running. Call somebody that can help you check it out or get on a different computer and search the Internet for information on the file that you clicked on or email that you received.
By the way. Before clicking on any email link, the first thing you should always do is make sure it is taking you where you think it will. The link may say one thing, but clicking on it may take you to an entirely different web site. Here is an example. It says that it is going to take you to Bank of America’s web site. If you click it, it will take you to Google’s web site.
Many email programs will indicate near the bottom of its screen where the link will take you. If your email program does not tell you this information then I would suggest that you right click on the link and select Copy Link Location or something to that effect. That puts the link itself into your computers memory. Then you can go to your browser and paste it in on the address line. This will be the address were it will take you. Do not click or press enter until you have looked it over carefully and made sure it going to a site that you trust. Try this method with the above link.
Do not be fooled by addresses such as: http://www.bankofamerica.ivsr.com
The above address is something I made up but if you were to click it it would go to the ivsr.com web site, not Bank of America’s web site.
You should always look at the file names of any attachment to an email. If they end in .EXE or .COM or .BAT you should not click on them unless you are very sure it is what you want. Do not open any file unless you are sure you want it. Double clicking or opening a file with those extensions will start a program running on your computer that very well could be a virus. Even a .DOC file, which is a Microsoft Word document, can open and automatically run a macro that will start an .EXE file running. If you do not see an extension on the file, it may be because you have "show all extensions" set off or "Hide extensions for known file types" set to on. This can be changed but cannot be explained easily. If you do not see the file type (.EXE, .COM, .BAT, .PPS, .JPG, etc.) then assume it is a virus unless you are expecting the file.
Unless you know what the file is, who it came from and are sure you need it, do not open it. Some viruses hijack email programs and send them to all recipients. If there are attachments or links in the email and it is out of character for the person that sent it to you, do not open or click on them. You can get a virus from any file. Even .JPG files can carry viruses although there must be a small EXE virus file already infecting the computer for them to run. No emailed joke or picture or video is worth a virus on your computer. Your anti-virus software will catch most viruses but it is not foolproof.
For more information you can search the Internet for CryptoLocker or go to snopes here:
I have not verified the links in this article but it may be of some value to read:
Snopes is a reputable web site that tracks information on scam and false information emails. You can always go there and search for information yourself. All you have to do is got to www.snopes.com and enter some information either in the subject or body of the email and it will give you a list of possible emails to choose from. Clicking on the one you want will give you the information that snopes has collected about it.
If you want to check on a web site itself, use Google or any search engine and enter the website into the search box, not on the address line! In my above example you can enter ivsr.com or snopes.com and will get a list of web sites with information on that web site. Do not click on one of the search return items that has the web sites address in the listed link until you are reasonably assured that it is a safe web site. Many anti-virus programs will flag their approval right in your browser on the link.
Use your mind. If things are too good to be true like free money, fantastic money making opportunities or free expensive products like an iPhone, then do not trust them. Do not click on things you don’t know or care a lot about. It is not worth the risk. Do not trust information in emails unless you are reasonably certain it is reliable. If you get an email from your bank out of the blue and it wants personal information then it is probably a scam. Check any links and make sure they are going to the companies web site and not somewhere else. Do not trust phone numbers either. They may ring a fake company that will answer the phone with the companies name but it could be anyone on the other end. If you have any doubt whatsoever, look up the companies web site or phone number from your own records or on the Internet and use those instead. Call the company on a phone number you know is correct and tell them that you got an email form them and ask them if it is valid or not.
Beware of notices that say you have a virus or some other problem that pops up in a browser window. They often have links that offer to help you check to see if you have a virus or to fix one or to get information on one. Clicking on those links can start an executable file on your computer, giving you a virus. The popups will usually be a new window in your browser. Do not close it by clicking the X in the upper right corner or any button that says "Close" or "Not Interested "in the window as these could activate the program. There are 2 other ways to close it.
The first and easiest one works on the window that currently has focus which is probably the message you are reading that just popped up. Press and hold the ALT key with one hand and press the F4 key with the other and then release both keys. The window should close.
The second method is to look down on your task bar, usually at the bottom of your screen unless you moved it, and look for the browser program you are running. There may be several browser windows open. You can right click on the one you think needs to be closed and a menu will pop up. One of the options is Close. Left click Close and the window should close.
An anti-virus program is a must if you are using the Internet often and/or get attachments in emails. Make sure you are running one if you are on a PC. Macs and Linux machines are less of a risk but still get viruses. Anti-virus programs are not fool proof either. There is no substitute for using your mind as your first line of defense!
I hope this helps you stay safe. If you have any questions then feel free to ask.