Ransomware and the Importance of Backup

There has been a lot of coverage in the tech-related blogosphere lately regarding a specific threat called (among other things) Trojan.Gpcoder.F.  Once this malware has infected your machine it searches for files on your system that could potentially be important to you (based on the extension of the file) and then encrypts the data using a 1024 bit key (technically it creates an encrypted copy of the file and deletes the original.)  Once your data has been encrypted, the malware informs you that your files are being held for ransom along with details on how to buy the decryptor program to restore your data.

This type of threat is appropriately called Ransomware.  In the past, security companies have been able crack the keys used by these types of programs so that users could get their data back without having to submit to the criminals who caused the infection. But today, with keys as large as 1024 bits, breaking the cipher is much more difficult.  The length of the key plays a big part in the security of an encryption algorithm and in this case the high level of security is being used against the user.

As I was reading about this nasty piece of software I couldn't help but think "Good thing I've got Norton 360 running backups for me."  No matter what backup software you use, a threat like this really highlights the need for running regular backups. Tech enthusiast Chris Pirillo covered the importance of backing up important files earlier this year and gives some good tips here. I know that I primarily think of backup as being my failsafe in the event of a hardware failure but this Trojan really made me see things differently.  Backup would certainly save the day if you were attacked by a piece of ransomware.

The good news: Most AV software should pick this threat up before you get a chance to run it.

The bad news: There have been threats like this in the past, and there will be more like them in the future

Moral of the story: if you're not backing up, get started!  If you are already backing up great job!  Make sure your backups are up to date.

Message Edited by jgonzales on 02-11-2009 07:00 PM