Most people in the Bitcoin community have heard about a nasty piece of ransomware called CryptoLocker. The reason why this is relevant to Bitcoin is because, in order to unlock your files on your computer, you need to pay a fee – or ransom – in the form of an online payment; Bitcoin is one of the “supported” payment methods, which is why stories about CryptoLocker are being picked up by mainstream media outlets.
Irish Businesswoman Blackmailed For Bitcoin
Headlines like those make my stomach ache, as there is no such thing as “blackmailing” people when it comes to a piece of ransomware. Granted, the “virus” is “keeping your files hostage” until you pay, but blackmailing would only occur if you have something to hide. Surely that isn’t the case in this story?
Regardless of how it’s phrased, Shirley Palmer became a high-profile victim of the Cryptolocker ransomware. According to her statement, it was a “personal attack”, even though CryptoLocker has made its way throughout the world in the very same way since day one: if a user clicks on a link in a shady email or on social media, it becomes their responsibility and there is no blackmailing involved.
However, I can see why people would spew terms such as “blackmail”, as the CryptoLocker ransomware does show a countdown timer by which you have to pay in order to get your files decrypted. Failure to do so would – normally speaking – result in the files remaining encrypted permanently. The only option to restore file access is by paying the sum of 350 GBP, preferably in Bitcoin.
“It was just a link on Facebook and, to me, it looked like a YouTube clip. I felt it was secure and didn’t think otherwise. But my machine then did a kind of shudder and flashed. Every single file and photograph was encrypted. I was going to lose everything if I didn’t pay up. Our most precious things, such as family photos, were my concern over and above anything else and there were also my business details; this is my business computer.”
- Shirley Palmer, CryptoLocker Ransomware Victim
Personally, I have one small annotation to make to this story so far. Ms. Palmer runs a business-coaching firm in London, England, yet is not aware of how clicking a link that “may resemble a Youtube link” on Facebook could damage her computer. On top of that, why are you storing family photos on your business computer? I can see why you may want to change the desktop background to a family photo, but surely that isn’t your only copy of those photographs?
After going through the tedious process of buying two Bitcoins in order to regain access to her files, Ms. Palmer contacted the police to file a report, which was then passed on to Action Fraud. Until this very day, Shirley Palmer feels her personal privacy was violated because of the CryptoLocker ransomware, as she also had to provide an ID scan and a proof of address before she could even purchase the two Bitcoin in order to decrypt her computer files.
There is A Free Working Solution for Ransomware
Apparently there are many people in the world unaware of a free and working solution to ransomware infections such as CryptoLocker. Instead of doing their research and looking around, they immediately panic and, in this case, manage to get interviewed by mainstream media in order to [(un)intentionally] give Bitcoin a bad reputation.
Fox-IT and FireEye, two IT security firms, have created an online portal called Decrypt CryptoLocker, where victims of this nasty piece of ransomware can obtain the decryption key free of charge to store access to their files. All it takes is submitting one file that has been encrypted, and the Decrypt Cryptolocker team will determine which encryption key was used.