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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

BBB Tip of the Week: Beware the digital hijacker

A computer infection called Cryptolocker, a digital hijacker, is targeting businesses. Once installed, this malware, also called ransomware, encrypts files and networked volumes. Next, a splash screen appears demanding a ransom payment within a specific timeframe or else the files will be permanently locked and unrecoverable.

This type of infection is not new. You may have heard of the “FBI” version with a splash screen that simulates an FBI-like message and logo. However, with the focus on businesses, Cryptolocker hijackers are counting on the critical need for the files and a willingness to pay the ransom.

Ransomware can install from links found while social networking and in emails. Botnets, which are compromised, networked computers, are also culprits in ransomware installation. Unfortunately, some major antivirus programs, especially free ones, cannot catch and prevent ransomware. Others may stop Cryptolocker but only if set up for active scanning.

The best defense against these attacks may be education and prevention. The Better Business Bureau shares the following tips to make sure you and your coworkers are doing your best to keep your workstations safe from infection:

• Regularly back up your files. For small businesses without dedicated IT staff, you may want to look into a data backup service.

• Install and regularly update antivirus and anti-spyware software. These may not catch every infection, but they do usually offer a good level of protection.

• Resist clicking on suspicious links. This includes links found on Facebook and Twitter and in unexpected emails.

• Do not open unsolicited email attachments. Even if you exchange many files in your daily business operations, don’t open any attachments until you’ve confirmed the sender’s identity and intention.

• If your system becomes infected and a ransom message appears on your screen, immediately disconnect from your network. This may prevent the spread of infection to other machines.

• After recovering your files from a backup, be sure to scan your systems for other viruses that may have hitchhiked with the ransomware.

• If your system has been infected, report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, at You may wish to also file a report with your local police department and submit a complaint to the Attorney General at

For more tips, visit the BBB at or call (509) 455-4200.

Erin T. Dodge, BBB Editor