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November 19th, 2013

Can avast! protect me against CryptoLocker?

howto2_enQuestion of the week: I have read frightening stories about CryptoLocker locking computers. I don’t have $200 to pay blackmailers for my own files. How do I protect myself from getting attacked? Does avast! protect from CryptoLocker?

 

“Avast! Antivirus detects all known variants of CryptoLocker thanks to our automated processing and CommunityIQ,” said Pavel Sramek, researcher and analyst for the avast! Virus Lab. “There are less than a dozen; this doesn’t seem to be a case of rapidly mutating malware.”

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What is CryptoLocker?

CryptoLocker is malware known as “ransomware” that encrypts files on a victim’s Windows-based PC. This includes pictures, movie and music files, documents, and certain files on local or networked storage media. A ransom, paid via Bitcoin or MoneyPak, is demanded as payment to receive a key that unlocks  the encrypted files. The victim has 72 hours to pay about $200; after that the ransom rises to over $2,200.

How to get CryptoLocker?

The CryptoLocker virus is often attached as an executable file disguised as a PDF attachment to an official-looking “spoofed” email message which claims to come from banks, UPS or FedEx claiming to be a tracking notification. When someone opens the email, they are asked to download a Zip file that contains an executable file (.exe) that unleashes the virus.  There is also evidence that CryptoLocker started with infections from the ZeuS or Zbot banking Trojan and is being circulated via botnets to download and install CryptoLocker.

How to protect your computer from CryptoLocker?

AVAST users should be safe from infection during the short period when the malware is new and “undetected” as long as AutoSandbox and DeepScreen are active. “The infection is prevented by means of a dynamic detection,” said Sramek.

“We also automatically add detections for each new sample that passes our backend filters,” said Jiri Sejtko, Sramek’s colleague in the avast! Virus Lab.

“Against future threats like this, having a backup is always a good idea – who knows when CryptoLocker v2.0 will be released, and every antivirus solution is reactive by nature,” said Sramek. “The encryption used is virtually unbreakable, there is zero chance of recovering files after infection.”

Avast! BackUp is an online backup and recovery service that allows you to select sets of data or individual files you want to back up. Try avast! BackUp free for 30 days; after that you can choose a subscription based on your storage needs.

Read the warning issued to American computer users from US-CERT, and the warning to British users from NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit.

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December 6th, 2012

Hotel key hacker picks a new lock

When it comes to hotel security, I usually check two things: 1. Does the door open to an inside hallway or directly to the outside?, and 2. Does the room have a safe to store my passport and other valuables? Now, it seems, I have a third thing to think about: The electronic key.

Those sturdy plastic keycards have always seemed secure, and up to now, my only concern has been losing it, and having to ask the clerk at the front desk for a replacement. But recently, burglaries in American hotel rooms were linked to an electronic ‘hack’ which can open 4-5 million electronic locks in 200 hotel chains worldwide.

Back in July, at the Black Hat security conference, a Mozilla software developer exposed flaws he discovered in hotel room locks from the lock manufacturer Onity. He demonstrated the ability to break into rooms with a simple, cheap device that could be hidden in an iPhone case. Read how he did it. Since the summer, others have perfected the technique, and now thefts have taken place and an arrest was even made in Texas.

Your data is more important than the device it’s on

With all the devices we carry with us these days – I have a smartphone, laptop, and tablet – securing these gadgets is important. The most important thing about these devices is the data that’s on them, so before you leave on your travels, make sure you backup your files, photos, music, etc. Avast! BackUp is an online backup and recovery service that allows you to select sets of data or individual files you want to back up.  You can quickly and easily restore files with the avast! BackUp software on your computer and you may also log in to your account online to restore files. Download a free trial here.

For your Android smartphones and tablets, make sure you install and setup avast! Free Mobile Security, our anti-theft and anti-malware app. It has special “stealth” and remote-access features, including lock, wipe and siren, as well as remote text commands, so you are protected against the loss or misuse of your phone.  Get avast! Free Mobile Security for free from Google Play.

Other valuables, such as travel documents, can be placed in the hotel safe. But be aware that even those aren’t entirely secure. Reports have been made that some can be opened with a default code of all zeroes, 0000. Check it out next time. If you don’t trust the in-room safe or your items won’t fit, consider using the hotel front desk guest safes. If you don’t want to make use of a safe, make sure you bring luggage equipped with locks, so you can secure your valuables inside.

Do you have any other tips to keep your devices and yourself secure while staying in a hotel? Please share them.

November 30th, 2011

avast! BackUp saves files from disaster

When a fire blazes, a thief strikes or a cup of coffee spills, having a backup copy of your computer files is a major relief. Hardware can be replaced, but retrieving precious photos, your extensive music collection and the past few years’ tax returns – well, not so simple – until now.

Avast! BackUp is an online backup and recovery service that allows you to select sets of data or individual files you want to back up. For example, if you only want to back up your music, you could choose files with .mp3 extensions, or, like me, if you want a backup of Outlook to preserve work contacts, you can choose Outlook email and contacts. For a second level of protection you can also back up to a local external drive.
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