The computers of people across the Western Downs are being hacked itno using CryptoLocker.
The computers of people across the Western Downs are being hacked itno using CryptoLocker. Lee Constable

You could lose it all

HOLDING people to ransom using their photos, music and business information, cyber-criminals are fleecing residents of the Western Downs.

Their weapon is a ransomware trojan called CryptoLocker, a program which swept the United States in 2013-14.

Authorities estimate that in this period about $27 million was transferred to criminal’s accounts by Americans desperate to get their data back.

Darktime Computer Services Chinchilla technician Ben Ganley reported paying off a ransom in Bitcoin for a local business in January this year.

Crypto-currencies like Bitcoin are online currencies which are impossible to trace or interfere with for anyone not involved directly in the transaction.

The price in Australian dollars was about $800, after the ransom was doubled as penalty for not paying sooner.

Two instances of CryptoLocker attacks have been logged with Dalby computer technician Edward Otto in the last two weeks – one customer reportedly risks losing their life’s work to the criminals.

“I have heard of one person that did pay it, and they did get the encryption key,” Mr Otto said.

“Some people don’t pay because they don’t want to pay criminals. The money is going to Russians or Eastern Bloc states.

“There are stories of people who’ve paid the money and not gotten the encryption key, so they’d rather suck it up and lose their data rather than pay money and still lose their data.”

CryptoLocker and other variants of the program infect computers through email attachments – typically .zip files.

Mr Otto said the virus would be transmitted by phony government emails purporting to have speeding tickets attached, for example.

Once the attachment is opened, the encryption begins, with a slight flickering of the screen the only hint that something is wrong.

Once all the files are encrypted, instructions on how to pay appear and all data files are impossible to use.

There is no known anti-virus software which can stop CryptoLock.


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