Cryptolocker Attacks Our Client’s Files

This past weekend one of our clients mistakenly clicked on an attachment in an email that appeared to legitimately come from FedEx International. The PDF attachment was a shipping label or so it said. Up-to-date A/V scanned it as it was opening, but nothing actually opened! The PDF was a silent script that sent malware out into the computer, encrypting all PDFs, all Office docs, pictures, music files, text files, etc. Once done on the local computer, it went to ALL mapped drives the workstation was using to connect to the server. EVERY folder where the logged in user had write access provided, the malware encrypted every user-created file in those directories as well. We estimated that over 30,000 files were affected.

Ransom Demanded

As soon as it was done, a text file pop-up appeared on the computer screen with instructions on how to get a decrypt key. This particular ransomware thief only wanted .18787 bitcoin which translated to $122.11. The process is poorly documented and appears quite shady. And unfortunately, it is very likely the only hope available to get recent data restored. Backups exist but aren’t as up-to-date as they should be.

FBI Discourages Paying Cryptolocker Thieves

Researching bitcoin purchases, we came across a blog where the FBI asks customers to NOT pay the ransom as it encourages further attacks. The article suggests contacting FBI resources to report the attack…something we are going to help the customer do.

Simple Steps to Prevent Cryptolocker or Other Ransomware

How can you prevent or recover from a Ransomware attack? Here are four ways:


  • 1) Make regular disconnected backups of your data on workstations and servers. Run the backup to a USB external drive from your workstation and then unplug it. This could be simple drag-copy of your important files to the external storage. Or if you use Carbonite, Mozy, One-Drive or other cloud storage, as soon as you’re done synchronizing, logout.


  • 2) Use Malwarebytes with the Ransomware plug-in or contact us to provide a quote for you to use the Sophos Central cloud scanning with their new Intercept-X ransomware killer. I’m not trying to make a sale here, I’m hopefully providing protection solutions for you. Be sure that the anti-virus product you use is up-to-date and that it will at least try to protect against ransomware.


  • 3) Convert all regularly used login accounts to Standard User so that a user doesn’t have complete access to the entire computer hard drive or the computer registry. Evaluate/audit who (which log-in accounts) has Write access to network shares/drives. If someone doesn’t need Write access to a server location, take it away.


  • 4) Educate all of your users to be wary of anything coming into their email/mailbox, whether it is coming from a sender they are familiar with or not. You don’t know if a familiar sender’s email account has been compromised by a ransomware creator or not. If there is even the slightest hint of a problem…tell your staff to pick up the phone and call the sender to verify before opening. The few minutes they spend making a call, could save your company data.


Ransomware attacks are the most heinous of any malware attacks I’ve seen in more than 25 years in the computer industry. There isn’t any punishment possibly because nearly all attacks originate overseas. The attack mentioned above from this weekend offered five URLs to contact after payment is made…four of the five are from Russia.


Any questions or concerns? Please contact us at


Please share this blog post with your colleagues to help prevent more malware/ransomware attacks.


In the next entry on this blog topic, we will detail how we were able to solve this ransomware attack.



Windows 10 has been with us for a little more than one year.  During that time, I’ve upgraded a number of workstations using the free offer.  I’ve also assisted with imaging deployment using Micro Focus ZENworks to deploy Windows 10 Professional to dozens or hundreds of computers.

Window 10 Default Apps Have Limitations

In several cases, the default apps don’t let Windows 10 users work the way they were used to with Windows 7 or perhaps Windows 8.x.  The Edge browser replaces Internet Explorer (IE) and your system “wants” to use it for things like PDF files and even Word documents.  The Edge browser, early on, didn’t support many webapps but has become much better in the year since it released.

Changing Window 10 Apps in 6 Easy Steps

So how do you change the default apps so PDFs and other files open with the applications you expect them to open in?  Follow these steps:

  1. Click the Windows logo in the lower left of your screen.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Click System (Display, notifications, apps, power)
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the list and click on Choose default apps by file type. Find the app or document type you want to change and click on it to show a list of applications (note, the applications such as Adobe Reader or Mozilla Firefox must already be installed).  Several times I’ve found PDFs with the Edge browser assigned as the default app.  Edge won’t open an Adobe PDF file very well.
  5. Here is another example: If you want to change the default Web browser to something other than Microsoft Edge, find it and click on the icon to reveal alternative browsers such as IE or Firefox.
  6. Once complete, click the X to close the Settings dialog and return to your applications and desktop.

Hopefully this information will help you reconfigure just a few of the defaults presented by a new installation of Windows 10 or an upgrade from a previous version of Windows to 10.

Need more help? Use our contact form to send us an email, or give us a call at 513-300-5198.

Photo credit: Wikipedia