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Threat of 'dangerous' viruses to computers [Grimsby Telegraph (UK)]
[June 09, 2014]

Threat of 'dangerous' viruses to computers [Grimsby Telegraph (UK)]

(Grimsby Telegraph (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) COMPUTER users are being warned to step up their security measures ahead of an impending virus which is set to sweep the country.

The National Crime Agency issued the alert last week and gave the country a two-week period to protect itself from the virus that could give hackers access to sensitive information - costing the country millions of pounds.

In a statement, the agency said internet users have been encouraged to "protect themselves against powerful malicious software" by checking that their anti-virus software is up-to-date, and running scans to ensure that all applications are running correctly.

The move comes after the FBI in America was successful in disrupting a hacking network, making security updates by users particularly effective in the short term. The viruses, known as GOZeuS and CryptoLocker, hide within attachments in e-mails that when opened give computer access to hackers, who use the software to scan devices for valuable information. They then "lock" the computer and demand a ransom from the user, which experts say even police cannot unlock.

Simon Tasker, from Cleethorpes If they manage to encrypt your files and you get the ransom notice then even the police will not be able to unlock them Simon Tasker, Cleethorpes Computer Centre in St Peter's Avenue, said it was imperative that users back-up their data to an external device before, crucially, disconnecting it from the machine. "These viruses are very, very sophisticated and people need to be careful," he said.

"If they manage to encrypt your files and you get the ransom notice then even the police will not be able to unlock them.

"Our advice is to ensure you have a proper paid-for security software, like Kaspersky which we recommend, because that is your first line of defence.

"Secondly, people should back-up their files to an external hard drive and make sure that it is then disconnected from the computer. If it is plugged back in then those files may become encrypted too." Mr Tasker warned users not to open and to delete any e-mails from senders they do not know.

He added: "These viruses may not show themselves straight away because they allow your computer to be watched, and they will decide whether you have something worth holding to ransom.

"Only then would you get the notice on your screen.

"This means they often target businesses, but that is not to say individuals won't be affected too." Lamar Bailey, director of security research and development at software company Tripwire, said: "The design of these malware packages make it nearly impossible to completely wipe out, but a co- ordinated attack can cause damage. "While these organisations are attacking the command and control servers, countries are rolling out a massive consumer education group Get Safe Online also posted on its own website, asking users to pay attention to the advice and take advantage of this event to improve their security.

The group has posted advice on monitoring potentially malicious e- mails, as well as links to free anti-virus software.

"This warning is not intended to cause you panic but we cannot over-stress the importance of taking these steps immediately," said the group.

"This is because the UK's National Crime Agency has taken temporary control of the communications used to connect with infected computers, but expects only a very limited window of opportunity to ensure you are protected." The web has been the victim of several serious security breaches in recent months, with the effects of the Heartbleed bug still being felt.

The bug took advantage of a flaw in the OpenSSL software that is designed to encrypt and protect data as it is exchanged online.

Several websites, including parental advice site Mumsnet, were hacked as a result of the flaw.

Andy Archibald, deputy director of the NCA's National Cyber Crime Unit, said: "Nobody wants their personal financial details, business information or photographs of loved ones to be stolen or held to ransom by criminals. By making use of this two-week window, huge numbers of people in the UK can stop that from happening to them.

"Whether you find online security complicated or confusing, or simply haven't thought about keeping your personal or office computers 'Cracking CryptoLocker is next to impossible' In your words The reality is that these pieces of malware have actually been around for some time and they are insanely dangerous.

These particular samples are very evolved and in many cases if they manage to get installed on a system, money will be surely lost and removal will be very difficult.

Alex Balan, head of product management company BullGuard For CryptoLocker the hackers demand payment in Bitcoins, which means that anyone who gets infected has to dive into the Bitcoin world and convert money to Bitcoins. The ransom sits at about $300.

The really nasty thing about CryptoLocker is that it is actually a super tough encryption so much so that cracking it is next to impossible even for some of the world's most powerful computers.

And then there's no guarantee that files will be decrypted.

safe for a while, now is the time to take action.

"Our message is simple: update your operating system and make this a regular occurrence, update your security software and use it and, think twice before clicking on links or attachments in unsolicited e-mails. "Those committing cyber crime impacting the UK are often highly skilled and operating from abroad. To respond to this threat, the NCA is working closely with law enforcement colleagues all over the world, and developing important relationships with the private sector." ? ON THE WEB: For updates and more advice on how to protect yourself visit our website, Your weekly consumer page is an opportunity to air your views on local issues, and to praise firms, too. To submit a letter or a story, please write to: Sam Kinnaird, Grimsby Telegraph, 80 Cleethorpe Road, Grimsby, DN31 3EH or, alternatively, e-mail sam.kinnaird What should you do to reduce the risk? The NCA, in conjunction with the Government's Get Safe Online help website, is urging computer users to do the following: ? Make sure internet security software is installed and updated by running scans and checking your computer operating systems and software programs are up-to-date. ? Back up all important information such as files, photos and video, in case your PC is locked by CryptoLocker.

? Only open e-mail attachments if you're 100 per cent certain the e-mail is authentic, as doing so could download the virus. It could also be a phishing scam trying to trick you into giving out personal details.

Even if you've not found this virus on your computer, it's good practice to keep your internet security system up-to-date.

? Files such as documents, photos and music should always be backed up and it's important to never store passwords on your computer in case it's accessed by criminals.

Your passwords should also be chosen carefully so they aren't easy for hackers to ? guess: ? Make sure it isn't obviously associated with you. Avoid using your date of birth, pet's name, or any other information hackers could easily access on a social network or by going through your bins.

? Use a mixture of words, numbers and characters. Passwords can still be memorable even when you jumble up numbers and letters.

? Use different passwords for different sites. This ensures that if someone were to guess one of your passwords, they wouldn't be able to get into all your accounts.

(c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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