I had originally intended that this be only one article but as things developed it stretched into several. Please indulge me as I promise an end to this nonsense.
Okay, so you come home one night about to place your key in the door lock, and are greeted with a sign that says you cannot enter your house because it has become encrypted. You can unencrypt your house by sending $500 to a mysterious entity with only an IP address.
Of course, if you cannot send this $500 within a limited time you are given the option of sending $1,000. Of course, this sounds strange but in essence this actually happened to our home and perhaps millions of others via my wife’s computer. Those of you who know my wife are aware of the fact that for years she has been creating her own greeting cards, using her computer as well as accumulating a vast reservoir of recipes, phone numbers, email addresses, and the beginnings of a book on which she is working.
One day several weeks ago, when she turned on her computer to begin working on one of her many projects, she was greeted by a notice telling her that everything in her computer had been encrypted and that if she wanted to be able to use her files she had to pay this $500 immediately. Great, huh?
Naturally she turned to me, our home IT expert to solve the problem. At this time, I had just had surgery to replace one of my two remaining knees. I was in no state of mind to begin probing what appeared to be a very complex computer problem. When I sought help from several sources that probably were familiar with this I received all kinds of conflicting information.
First, I was told that there was really nothing you could do about it except to buy a new computer and redo everything that my wife had been doing for the past eight to 10 years.
You would not want to be around the Mrs. when I informed her of that! I was and still am absolutely incensed that someone, perhaps a little kid in Uzbekistan, might actually be able to take over our personal computers and hold them for ransom until we paid a ridiculous amount. I suppose if someone were actually at my front door telling me that they would not allow me in before I paid this ransom I could dial 9-1- 1, and have a Cutler Bay police detachment waiting to arrest these people. Try doing that with Internet crime.
Frankly, I know of no method of pursuing these people, punishing them, or making computers safe from their attacks. Check on Google for Cryptolock if you want to learn more.
Of course we did all the things that we have constantly advised to do, backup, have a backup hard drive, don’t open emails that seem suspicious, and all the other safety issues.
All of this did no good whatsoever because the encryption took over my backup hard drive as well so now I had a computer and a complete backup of absolutely nothing.
Are you angry yet? I am not a violent person as most people know. I seldom have had a strong desire to own a handgun, nor could I justify many reasons for actually wanting to kill someone. That is beginning to change. What was about to be lost was more than what a burglar might take should he break into your house, steal your jewelry, TVs, and family treasures.
What this thief was taking was approximately eight to 10 years of diligent work by my wife accumulating and saving a collection of family photo greeting cards that she hand makes and delivers to each and every person on her list plus her list of friends and names, phone numbers, etc., etc., etc. It’s not stuff that you could go to the local store and say give me one of each of these. Are you sensing my anger yet? I hope so!
We began searching for help from many of the so-called experts in the field. My thought was that if someone is smart enough to encrypt all of this data, there must be someone smart enough to decrypt it. The advice we received varied from sending them the money and hoping for the best, to simply buying a new computer and starting from scratch — not the greatest alternatives in a particular situation. I began doing some research on the Internet about this sinister program and at this point have located a company in West Palm Beach that claims that for a fee (substantial but reasonable) they could decrypt her entire computer and allow us to use all of her accumulated treasures.
As I am writing this, this company has control of her computer and after two days they still are working to solve the problem. They have spent perhaps the equivalent of three to four full working days working on this problem for us. If they are successful you can be sure that I will be providing accolades unlike any that I have ever done for anyone else.
To be continued!