That morning was just like any other morning. Got up late, hurriedly sent my children to school, took a “kakka – kuli” myself and landed up in the office huffing and puffing. My colleague had already fired the laptop and was checking his mails. When i took it over from him to print out a document, I was unable to open it. I tried restarting my laptop (a novice’s quick fix for all computer problems). But that didn’t work too… I realised that strangely the extension of the file was modified to something else that i havent seen before. I think it was docxV or something. I tried changing that. That also didnt help. That was when i realised that all my files in that folder had mutated to that strange extension.
And with increasing trepidity, I realised that ALL the files in the laptop had mutated. Pictures, documents, PDF, PPTs…. EVERYTHING. And NONE of them were opening.
I felt like I was stuck in some kind of horribly made Sci-Fi movie and the only thought that was running in my mind was – “What the Hell is wrong! what is happening?”
And suddenly, as if some telepathic person had read my mind, the browser popped opened automatically (on its own) to a site. It explained a process by which they had transformed the contents of my laptop to some unreadable form (they had explained it, but me being the technically challenged person I am, it just went right over my head). And that NOTHING or NOBODY except themselves, can rectify the problem. Then it said if i wanted the problem to be rectified, go to the link below.
Afraid, I didn’t click the link. But I called my All-Knowing cousin. I explained everything and he replied in one word – Ransomware. They lock your computer like this and then take ransom from you for unlocking the computer. I had never heard about this before. Antivirus could not detect it. Antivirus cannot solve it. Nobody can solve it. In fact he said in 4 simple words – Nothing can be done. If he of all people said that, then I knew nothing could be done. That was when I truly started panicking and the water works started. I mean, all my customer details, proposals, anything and everything that i had worked on in the past years were all gone!
Early in the morning, my colleague had received an e-mail with the subject “Invoice” and he had opened it thinking it was from some client. He had also opened a zip file that came attached with the mail. We suspect that was what triggered this attack on the laptop.
So what did we finally do? We had no other choice but to format the laptop. Everything was gone. I had backup with me, but I had not updated for the past 4 months. So I started combing all my e-mails to retrieve them. I have not gotten back all my documents, but I am able to manage now. What if this had happened in the accounts laptop!
So lessons learnt from this humbling experience
– ransomware attacks cannot be resolved. It can only be prevented
– ransomware attacks are not detected by antivirus. I had run a scan after the attacks but I got the result “no threats found”. (Cannot help myself from grudgingly admire the genius behind this)
-DO NOT open any attachment from a mail you do not trust especially containing a zip file. Even today I keep receiving e-mails under a hundred varied subjects (some very creative) like – invoice, payment pending, fine pending, your car has been caught in a traffic violation, Amazon order status (Amazon has never sent attachments), receipt of payment made etc.
– Always have a backup – this is not new advise. Nevertheless, repetition does not diminish it’s importance.
– and CONSTANT VIGILANCE!!!