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CryptoWall is a very dangerous piece of ransomware that over the last few years has not only been infecting individual users but large corporates all over the world (Lincolnshire County Council included) have also been targeted.

Ransomware is a type of malware that infects a PC, encrypts data files or the entire system and then demands payment (usually in Bitcoins – a digital currency) for a code that will restore the files. Even worse is that the hackers often take the payment but still do not unlock the data.

How does CryptoWall infect your computer?
The CryptoWall trojan is distributed in several ways. Malicious websites, or even legitimate websites that have been hacked, can infect your machine by installing it without your knowledge. However, it is mostly downloaded after opening an infected email attachment.

How do you know if your computer is infected?
When trying to open a Word, Excel or a picture file, the file is launched with the correct program, however the data will not display properly.
Alternatively, a text document or web page appears with a message informing the user that their files have been encrypted. It will demand that a payment of several hundred US dollars is made to obtain a code to unlock the files.

DO NOT EVER pay the ransom as there is absolutely no guarantee that your files will be reinstated. It's just a malicious way of earning illegal money. Bear in mind that every penny you pay these evil individuals will fund their attempts to target other victims. If nobody pays, they will hopefully stop these campaigns.

Once your PC has been infected with CryptoWall, there is nothing you or anybody else can do to get back your files. Your computer can be reset to factory defaults though.

How do you prevent Cryptowall from infecting your computer?
1. Be vigilant and secure
We say it in nearly every other blog but the first line of defence is to not get infected in the first place. Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in suspicious email messages and beware of dodgy web sites. Regularly update your internet security software as well Adobe Flash, Java and Microsoft Office.
2. Back up your data regularly
You can do this using external hard drives, a cloud service or USB flash drives. NOTE: if your back-up device is connected to your computer when CryptoWall strikes, these will be infected too.
Although these steps are no guarantee, they do add another barrier against this and other viruses and ransomware.