Beware ‘nasty’ computer virus, businesses urged

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A Larne IT specialist has warned local people to be aware of a dangerous new computer virus, which he claims could have serious consequences for business users in particular.

Mark Anderson, who runs Larne-based company Comspec Computer Services, described ‘Cryptolocker’ as “one of the nastiest viruses out there”.

He added: “Cryptolocker is a new ‘ransomware’ type of virus, which pretty much makes all of the computer users files useless unless you provide a payment to the scammers.

“When it infects your system, it will encrypt every document that it can see from your PC, including network drives from servers etc. These files cannot then be opened normally, without breaking the encryption.

“The message which appears on-screen demands payment in order to provide the encryption key to unlock your files.

“The problem with this virus is that, because it is so new, and because it uses encryption techniques, you may have a problem with your data. The virus itself is easily removed, but the files cannot be unencrypted without the correct encryption key or sending them to a data specialist to have the encryption broken.”

Mark said that while the virus can be easily removed, it will still leave users locked out of their documents, even when completely removed.

He added: “To remove the virus, you have many options, including trying a system restore, then once back into Windows, update and run a full scan using your current anti-virus application.

“When it comes to gaining access to the encrypted files, there are no simple answers. Encryption is performed using a key which is then offered to you by the scammers themselves. Breaking this encryption key is a specialist task, and not one a normal computer-repair store can perform.

“Prevention is always much better than the cure with this virus.”