“Ransomware” Strikes Keene Man’s Computer for $2,000 in Bitcoin – How to Keep Safe

Don't pay the terrorists!

Don’t pay the terrorists!

I received a call from a friend in Keene yesterday. His friend’s computer had been hit by “ransomware”. Ransomware is malware that supposedly encrypts the hard drive of the victim, then demands payment in bitcoin in order to unlock the files. The malicious software in today’s incident was demanding a payment of 1.9 bitcoin and at the time of this writing, one bitcoin is selling for over $1,000 USD, so the ransomware was demanding about $2,000 worth of bitcoin. Damn. This is not the way you want to introduce someone to the amazing world of Bitcoin.

Having heard that I was someone who might know a thing or two about bitcoin, they reached out to me. My first question was, do you have backups of your important files? He said that his backup procedure had been broken for a while, so he didn’t have one. This is the number one thing you can do to avoid paying ransom. If you have a backup (preferably one on-site and one off-site), then you can just format the computer and reinstall everything fresh.

They were in a hurry as there were mission critical files on the infected computer, so I told them I could help them turn some cash into bitcoin since the Keene Bitcoin Vending Machine at Route 101 Local Goods is closed on Mondays. However, I cautioned that they still have to trust unknown hackers to actually do as they say and unlock the files once the payment is made. (Turns out, they did decrypt the files about ten hours after he paid the ransom.) I then did some digging online for solutions to avoid paying the extortion.

Turns out, paying the ransom or formatting the computer aren’t the only two options, according to some of my even-more-techy friends in the New Hampshire bitcoin community. The most promising options are ransomware decryptors. Kapersky Labs, along with Intel and others, have a website set up with instructions and downloadable files to attempt to unencrypt your files. Another handy site, “ID Ransomware” will assist you in determining which specific ransomware you’re dealing with.

There’s also a small chance the ransomware didn’t even lock the files as it’s claiming. One expert says if that’s the case, “I would boot the computer from a Linux live CD and access the files, then get the files off the computer (e.g. copy to a thumb drive or external hard drive).”

In short, there ARE options, if you’re willing to put the time in. It may seem easiest to just pay the ransom, but that will only serve to encourage the hackers. If you have the ability to put some time into the options listed, it may save you some big money.

If you’re NOT yet infected by ransomware, congratulations! You have plenty of time to take some preventative steps, but you should do something sooner rather than later, especially if you have no protections at all in place. Here are a few options that I’m aware of:

  • If you don’t have an anti-virus, anti-malware program on your computer, get one installed right away. Avira is a good, free option.
  • If you don’t have your most-important files backed up on-and-off site, do that now. Dump ’em to a flash drive or DVD locally (which you can securely store) and sign up for an online backup service like CrashPlan. (I’m not getting paid for these recommendations, by the way – they are what I use. Perhaps there are better options, so of course you should compare them.)
  • Avira also recommends applying system updates as your operating system recommends. Yeah, no one likes to do it, but those updates can fix exploitable weaknesses that the hackers target.
  • Make sure you’re behind a firewall. You can run a firewall on both your router and your machine for extra security. Many operating systems come with this turned on by default, but it wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with it.
  • Finally, just be aware of suspicious links, email attachments you didn’t ask for, and phishing attempts. You’re not being paranoid if they actually ARE out to get you.

Thankfully, the victim of the ransomware in Keene was not holding anything against bitcoin. He seemed to understand that it’s just another form of money. Like cash, bitcoin can be used anonymously. That is one of the features of bitcoin, but of course with every technological advancement there are those who will use the technology for evil. Hopefully some of the suggestions here were of use to you.

To learn more about bitcoin, which is the amazing cryptocurrency taking the world by storm that you can spend online in thousands of places and even in real life in downtown Keene, please goto Bitcoin.com. If you’re in the Keene area and on facebook, you can connect with a bunch of local bitcoiners on the Keene Bitcoin Network facebook group. Or, come to our twice-monthly meetings, which you can find on the calendar here.

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15 Comments

  1. Milwaukee

    Bit-coin is unsafe and unstable, just like Free Keene and anyone who associates with them.

    Reply
  2. StaceyRowan

    Easiest fix: Don’t use Windows. Use Chromebooks. Your data is already encrypted whether you are behind a firewall or not. Adding a firewall is just icing on the cake. Using online or detachable storage solutions means that if a hacker were to blow the Chromebook up a-la Note 7, you’d just need to pick up another one for around $189 and all your settings, bookmarks, apps and files would be right there. 
    And before you start saying that you “can’t do anything on a Chromebook,” do a little research. They’ve come a long way. Currently there isn’t anything I can do on a Windows machine that I can’t do on a Chromebook (other than PC games but c’mon, that’s what the PS4 is for).

    Reply
  3. Drac Vermell

    Milwaukee Doesn’t it also require a measure of instability for someone to threaten a ten-year-old boy with a knife, Milwaukee darling?

    Reply
  4. Jumping Jacks

    What? Bitcoin, the activists favorite money is being extorted from infected computers? Yet another reason why bitcoin is a risky venture with a spotted past. Bitcoin still shows it’s weaknesses.

    Reply
  5. DavidCrawford4

    StaceyRowan i been wanting one of them 🙂

    Reply
  6. Drac Vermell

    Jumping Jacks Jacks, Jacks, Jacks, I don’t think you’ll find that there are many readers here who are trusting enough to take financial advice from the likes of you, especially considering the fact that it’s quite obvious you’ve been giving in to your idle nature once again by avoiding keeping up with recent news. Maybe if you weren’t so remiss about this sort of thing, you’d have noticed that Bitcoin has been going bananas as of late?
    http://www.businessinsider.com/bitcoin-price-january-4-2017-2017-1

    Reply
  7. Jumping Jacks

    Drac Vermell Jumping Jacks Peaches, it doesn’t matter who buys into bitcoin or not. This article still supports the fact that crypto currency such as bitcoin is unstable and easily manipulated. I never said anything about how much it is worth. So if you continue trying to be the token troll, try to get your info correct.

    Reply
  8. Drac Vermell

    Jumping Jacks Drac Vermell Jacks, Jacks, Jacks, it’s really funny to watch you feign expertise on the subject of finance with your repeated use of the term “manipulation.” You didn’t ply similar tricks with your instructors when you were attending nursing school, now did you?
    Oh, and by the way Jacks, Garber’s article said absolutely nothing about bitcoin’s instability. If anything, it was pointing out the inherent instability of fiat currencies such as the Chinese yuan. Perhaps you would have known that if you hadn’t merely scanned the article for disqualifying content.

    Reply
  9. Jumping Jacks

    Drac Vermell Jumping Jacks Peaches, again it would appear you are the troll of freekeene. You have nothing to say but you try. Try staying on topic once. I’m sure no one would hear from you

    Reply
  10. Drac Vermell

    Jumping Jacks Drac Vermell Now Jacks, don’t you think that your exasperation is completely unjustified here? After all, it’s your own fault you’ve been unable to impress any of us with your financial acumen, now isn’t it? You know Jacks, if you’re really so tired of being humiliated by someone every time you post an uninformed opinion about a subject, maybe you should consider better preparing yourself? You know what they say, Jacks, an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure!

    Reply
  11. libretea

    Chromebooks have come a long way, but are still limited. They’re not full fledged computers. A better solution is going with a full blown GNU/Linux distribution. The main thing to realize is GNU/Linux doesn’t cost anything and users are expected to upgrade from time to time. On MS Windows sucky hardware doesn’t matter as much because nobody upgrades-ever. So it’s very important that people get properly supported hardware that is supported by ‘free software’ drivers/firmware. This ensures you won’t run into problems connecting peripheral devices (like printers, wifi cards, and similar) nor run into issues down the line when you go to upgrade the operating system to a more recent release. In GNU/Linux properly supported hardware “just works” when you go to plug it in making it much easier than compared to Mac OS X/MS Windows/Chromebooks/etc.
    Certified hardware that is properly supported:

    http://www.fsf.org/ryf

    And pretty much everything else that will work and be properly supported can be found here:

    http://www.thinkpenguin.com/
    * Disclaimer I’m involved with the later company.

    Reply
  12. libretea

    Jumping Jacks 
    It’s not that unstable. Currencies fluctuate all the time. I know because my company does a lot of international business. CAN $ and AUD $ were on par with USD $ for a short while and now are back down and worth a lot less as an example. SO yea- it fluctuates a bit, but also has bursts of relative stability for long periods of time. It’s more than good enough to use as a means of exchanging value and saves businesses 3% over credit card payment options.

    For the past six months it’s been fairly stable and the long term direction is upward. Always has been. It’s idiots like you who don’t understand its value that keep spreading FUD. Bitcoin puts the user in control. It’s not an investment. Bitcoin eliminates chargeback risk which is HUGE. Companies put up with a certain amount of shrink, but thanks to Bitcoin businesses can reduce or eliminate these losses. 

    I say that as someone who is a savvy business player. Bitcoins have even opened my company up to new markets. Both in that it attracts other Bitcoin loving users and in that there are places we just can’t take credit cards or places in which credit cards aren’t prevalent.
    For instance we can ship laptops to India easily- but credit cards aren’t that common. Fortunately we are able to take orders in Bitcoin from the unbanked in India and elsewhere all thanks to Bitcoin.

    Reply
  13. libretea

    Milwaukee Yea- so are most currencies. The government can come in at any time and take your USD. It’s a lot harder to do that when the government doesn’t even know what you have. But ultimately money is not an investment. It’s a means of transferring value. It’s a temporary thing. You should never hold large amounts of cash. That’s terrible financial advice. You should be investing your money into things that increase in value. The USD is on a steady decline and its designed that way. Why do you think you need more USD today than yesterday to buy a slice of pizza?

    Reply
  14. DRACdouble

    Jacks, Jacks, Jacks, I am not the troll of Free Keene, I am the troll of anyone who doesn’t think that Ian and his group of friends are the bee’s knees. What a stellar group of young men and, childish men. Where are the women? Ian must be lonely. I would cuddle up to him in a heartbeat! Oooh he makes my legs weak with passion.

    Reply
  15. Drac Vermell

    DRACdouble I’ve noticed that whenever you’re losing an argument, DD darling, you always fall back to making empty threats or penning lurid homoerotic fantasies. You don’t actually think that this sort of thing defends your arguments, now do you poppet? Perhaps you should start taking some cues from your rivals here, sweetums. I’m sure you’ve noticed they’ve been winning theirarguments in court as of late.

    Reply

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