Today's Malware and Virus producers are getting bolder and meaner!
The latest of these annoying software monsters includes the CryptoLocker virus.
Once this virus infects your computer, it quietly goes through and encrypts all of your media and document files with a strong encryption key. This includes any files accessible on the network as well!
When the virus has finished encrypting your files, it will pop-up a window that tells you that your files have been encrypted and the only way you can reverse the process is to pay the ransom (typically $200-$500).
This virus will give you about 48 hours to complete the payment. If you don't pay within this time period it will destroy the key that would allow you to retrieve the files.
There is no way to clean your computer after the encryption is completed. This is real heavy duty encryption and the only way to un-encrypt your files is to use the key that the file-nappers are willing to sell you.
The only other way to recover your files is by restoring from a backup. Making backups more important than ever.
If you choose to pay the ransom you are sent a program that goes through and undoes all the encrypting, allowing you to access your files once again.
Needless to say, it is best to avoid the infection in the first place by having an active virus/malware scanner on your computer. Keeping it licensed and up to date.
I like to use a combination of Microsoft security essentials (a free virus scanner) and a paid copy of Malwarebytes Malware scanner. I find that MalwareBytes is very good at blocking website malware and avoiding installing harmless looking utilities that can be hard to remove later on. It tends to react better to annoying marketing ad-ins that may not be viruses, but still drive you crazy when they start popping up ads in your browser without your permission.
If you would like to read more about Ransomware viruses, click the link below to read an excellent article at sophos.com.
Sophos Ransomware article.