Cryptolocker infection forces chamber of commerce to spend $5,000 on new PCs

Still cutting a swathe through small-town America

A chambers of commerce in Vermont has found itself $5,000 (£3,000) out of pocket after having to replace computers, servers and backup drives infected by the rampaging Cryptolocker malware.

The Area Chambers of Commerce in the town of Bennington reportedly had its entire membership list, newsletter a brochure templates and grant records encrypted during the attack, leaving it with only it basic financial records, according to local press.

The attack happened in early February, coincidentally around the time Cryptolocker found its way on to a computer belonging to a North Carolina law firm with equally troublesome consequences.

Confronted with a ransom demand for $400 Bitcoins, the organisation attempted to pay but was foiled by a power outage that disrupted its link to the ransom gang (Cryptolocker often sets a time period for payment).

The organisation decided to swap out its computers to be certain the malware had been banished before investing in better backup.

"It's like starting a brand new chamber of commerce," the organisation's director Joann Erenhouse told the Bennington Banner. "It was like going back to a clay tablet and stylus, it was so frustrating."

So it appears that six months after it appeared, Cryptolocker is still reeling in victims with its double whammy of encrypting every file it can lay its mucky code on before demanding money for the unlock ley. To make matters worse, paying for the key seems to be getting less effective over time.

The same story that mentions the Bennington Chamber of Commerce's ransom disaster notes that a nearby dentistry practice had also been hit by the malware around the same time. It paid $550 in Bitcoins but received no unlock key, part of a now established theme; there is growing evidence that a substantial number of Crptolocker victims never see their data again no matter what they do,

It is the surprising willingness of victims to pay up that has defined the Cryptolocker story. This could be a comment on how people have been de-sensitised to the consequences of being infected by malware or just part of a deeper shift that views these events as simply a cost of doing business.

Probably the most notorious example of a willing payer was that of a Massachusetts police department that found itself stumping up $750 ransom using what must have been public money to get back important files.

A recent UK survey of computer users by the University of Kent found that 9 percent had experienced some form of ransom Trojan, with 3.4 percent encountering Cryptolocker. Forty percent chose to pay up with many reporting that no key was forthcoming.

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