Australia Faces Widespread Ransomware Attack

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Alvin Bryan

Alvin Bryan is a freelance writer and online privacy enthusiast enthusiast currently contributing quality tips and troubleshooting on personal VPN services, and online privacy and security news. You can also find him on Google +.

Malware AustraliaAustralia has been struggling with tens of thousands of computers being held for ransom. This is the second big attack on Australian users this year. This new attack comes less than five months after the last huge malware attack. has targeted a variety of computers, from corporate to government to personal. The attacks are so severe that the government has issued a warning to the public to beware of malware infections.

Ransomware Strikes Again

Now and then we hear news of ransomware attacks. It actually happens quite often, but is not widely publicized. Most victims, especially big targets, will keep it under wraps to avoid negative press. This attack on Australian computers has affected thousands of systems and has thus warranted more attention. The Australian attack is a typical ransomware scheme. Attackers have locked tens of thousands of people out of their computer systems. Now the attackers are demanding payment before they will allow access to files stored on the devices.

Computer RansomwareThe attackers used two versions of the same ransomware called CryptoWall and Cryptolocker. The computers were infected with one of these two versions. Then the attackers were able to hold the devices hostage. This ransomware works by infecting computer files to put them under the control of the attackers. The Australian government reported that the Cryptowall ransomware has already infected over 20,000 computers. In the news release, all users in the country were warned to take extra precautions. The types of malware favored today by cybercriminals can be very insidious. It is moreover cunningly crafted to avoid detection. Users must secure their computers with proper antimalware defenses, antivirus software and VPNs to avoid being targeted and infected.

Pay or Suffer

The idea behind ransomware is holding a site hostage. Hackers lock out users by encrypting their files then ask for a ransom payment to return control to the user. Many times, the hackers pretend to be tech support agents and send warning messages to the users. The warnings are worded so that users will be grateful to these so-called agents for noticing that they have a problem. The pretend agents will then quote a fee for fixing the problem, which they of course created in the first place. Other cybercriminals will simply lock users out and demand a ransom. In this case, users were asked to pay as much as 700 Australian dollars for the decryption code. To make payments untraceable, some attackers demanded that the payment be made in Bitcoin, the anonymous cryptocurrency. If people don’t pay, they are continually denied access to their files, their computers are destroyed, or their company secrets and personal data is exposed or even sold to the competition.

Ransomware SecurityPeople need to secure their computers with good antivirus software and VPNs, and also be very careful what sites they visit on the Internet. Companies and the government have to look into better antimalware systems. The malware that infected the Australian computers is suspected to come from malicious websites. The computer users were directed to these sites via links that were sent to their email addresses or posted on other websites. The Australia attack is said to have been done via emails supposedly from either the mobile provider Telstra or the postal service Australia Post.

By using a VPN, users will be able to secure their email addresses from being scraped from traffic. By using antivirus software, they can detect potentially malicious files trying to make their way into their systems. And finally, being careful about strange links and websites will prevent them from being led to malware download points.

6 thoughts on “Australia Faces Widespread Ransomware Attack

  1. It has been a horrible experience! I had heard about taking computers for ransom but always thought that my antivirus would take care of it. Sadly I was wrong and my personal files are gone :(

    • So sorry to hear that. Meredith :( I suggest you upgrade your antivirus and make sure that they provide antimalware protection. Backing up all your files to a remote or external location is also a very good idea.

  2. I was attacked in such a manner, by accessing Giveaway of the Day website, and downloading a PDF converter file…the crypto Trojan attached itself to ALL of my files, including precious family photos. Also attached itself to my BIOS, such that I could not use SAFE Mode, nor Restore.

    What saved me was my practice of using Dropbox or “cloud” locations on at least a weekly basis. I would “unlink” my computer from Dropbox, perform a triple virus check on all files resident on my computer (and ALL computers on my home network), as well as ALL files in my separate Dropbox folder.

    Once satisfied, I would then re-link my Dropbox and transfer clean files. I also keep my IMAP (web-based) emails online for at least 30 days for accidental retrievals.

    Because of the trojan, I had to reformat my hard drive to absolute zero…then reinstall the operating system and certain programs (whose downloads I always save to a separate Downloads folder so I can easily find them & reload if necessary), and add the clean files back…took my two days to set up, but at least I was back where I started.

  3. I also wanted to add that I later received the trojan via Microsoft Windows 8 itself!!

    I purchased a new computer Win 8.1, and the “new” Windows OS “security update” (9/30/2014 time-frame) does not allow one to control updates. It will automatically download its updates in the background. I had originally chosen “search for needed updates, but let me decide” –unfortunately, Microsoft in its unearthly “wisdom” has decided to ignore one’s choices. I thus changed my preference to “deny updates” altogether…I check for updates every Tuesday, but Microsoft does not give an adequate description of its updates–a simple robotic & meaningless description.

    By auto-downloading its update in the background, the crypto trojan was attached to Windows 8.1 “Aero” file–again, requiring a reformat of the entire system…unconscionable.

    I alerted Microsoft, but they simply don’t care. I was up and running again in two days.

    Many of my friends are now gravitating to Linux, or the more expensive Apple.

    Unbelievable…!

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