“CryptoViruses”: How internal systems are taken hostage

You may not realize it, but our IT department is in an ongoing virtual war against malicious software seeking to infect our internal systems.

As the threat of harmful computer viruses continues to grow, malware has quietly been able to sneak into online spaces that we have always trusted. Recently, what is known as a “CryptoVirus” is becoming more widespread and infecting legitimate websites and internal email systems.

These viruses are a unique type of malware known as “ransomware.” Ransomware requires the infected user to pay in order to get rid of the virus and access files.

Once infected, the virus will spread through the system encrypting the files that it encounters, locking the user out. When a user attempts to access the encrypted file they will be asked for payment in exchange for decryption. The virus essentially holds files for ransom. Typical ransom amounts are reported as being between $100 and $300, but can reach totals in the thousands.

malware graph

The viruses are easily spread through email attachments and banner ads. Infected ads can be found on any website, regardless of legitimacy. Harmful email attachments usually are received from official looking emails designed to seem like they originated from a recognizable company or organization, such as UPS.

Because the viruses are easily spread, it is important to know how to prevent them and combat them.

“The easiest way to prevent viruses is to only browse legitimate sites and to refrain from downloading anything. However, because of the disguises that CryptoViruses use, it is important to remain vigilant,” said John Paul Livingston, director of IT. “Do not open emails with attachments from unexpected sources. Delete them immediately and remove them from the ‘deleted items’ folder. Also avoid clicking on banner ads on websites whenever possible, as a normal looking ad could infect your computer.”

“Most importantly, if you think that you may have accidentally triggered a virus, please contact the IT department immediately.”

According to Livingston, Mid Penn Bank operates in industries that are prone to cyber-attacks. As the amount of vulnerability disclosures increases, malware and other harmful threats become a greater concern to us and our customers. We must continue to be cautious in how we conduct ourselves online in order to prevent viruses such as Cryptoviruses from holding us hostage.

(Published in Summer 2015 Mid Penn Bank faculty newsletter)

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