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21 October 2013 Written by 

Professional firms warned to beware new Ransomware virus threat

Aintree-based business technology provider Stack Group is warning of a type of computer virus which has begun attacking professional firms in the last week.

Known as Ransomware, the virus arrives via email inbox as an attachment to a message or as a link in it, initially from a well-known bank but later from any source. If the attachment is opened, there is no immediate indication that the virus has begun infecting the computer as it will behave normally.

But it will begin automatically encrypting your Microsoft Office files, demanding you text a premium rate mobile number to release them. The files will never be released however as criminals collect the cash from the texts and do not respond.

Stack Group chairman Jeff Orr sys that businesses, particularly office-based firms, need to be very careful as there is no known anti-virus for these Ransomware programmes.

“If you have data stored relating to clients or to commercially sensitive material then these Ransomware viruses can be deadly to your business.” he said. “These programmes, which are known in the industry as cryptolockers, have been around for some time but have never been used in a widespread way to target businesses.

“In the last week we have begun receiving reports that firms are beginning to experience problems as a result of Ransomware and we believe if these programmes begin to be traded, soon it could become an epidemic.”

Currently the best way to protect your systems before they get infected is to store files in ‘zipped up’ (compressed) formats and add a security code to encrypt them yourself. That way the virus can’t identify them. Data stored with Stack by clients is already protected as the firm pre-encrypts all data before storing it.

“These programmes cannot access files which are already encrypted,” said Jeff. “It is a challenge to stay ahead of the curve on cyber-security but this has been spotted early so we would advise businesses to be vigilant and to take precautions to ensure their vital or sensitive data is not lost forever.”

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