Alexander: How thieves steal data but don't take it

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2014 - 5:07 PM

Q: My computer was “nailed” by the CryptoLocker malware. It has encrypted my Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets so that I can’t access them. While it still shows up as an icon on my main screen, it appears to be dormant.

Is there a way to get my documents back and rid myself of this virus?

Ron Thomas, Ortonville, Minn.

 

A: You can get rid of CryptoLocker, which is transmitted through e-mail attachments or surreptitious downloads, but you can’t get your files back.

CyptoLocker holds your computer files for ransom by using the security technique of encryption, or file locking, against you. Normally, encryption protects your files from being stolen because only you have the “private encryption key,” or computer code, that’s needed to read them. But in this case remote hackers on the Internet have encrypted your files, and they alone have the private encryption key. You can expect to get a hacker demand for several hundred dollars as the price of unlocking your files. But you should never pay such a ransom to people who are unreliable petty thieves.

To get rid of CryptoLock, run the free software removal tool from reputable security firm Sophos at tinyurl.com/ca49wqw. To read more about the malware, see tinyurl.com/myq56hn and tinyurl.com/n5xxnsl.

To minimize your chances of being infected again, keep your software up to date (updates often patch security flaws), be careful which e-mail attachments you open and regularly back up your data to an external hard drive or flash drive.

 

Q: I have several pairs of TV wireless earphones that use the 900 megahertz radio frequency. But none of them allow me to hear a movie that’s playing on my Blu-ray player.

Neither the Blu-ray player nor my conventional DVD player has the audio jacks I need to plug in the wireless transmitter for the earphones. My TV does have the jacks, but doesn’t give me any sound. The only method that works is to plug the earphone transmitter into the cable TV box. No one seems to have a solution except to buy more expensive earphones. Any suggestions?

Rick Felber, Minneapolis

 

A: The problem is that your earphones are analog. As a result, the wireless transmitter for your earphones has only analog connectors, while your digital Blu-ray and DVD players have digital-only plug-ins. Your TV is a puzzle; it has both types of plug-ins, but isn’t giving you an analog signal.

You can either purchase a digital wireless earphone-transmitter set (an expensive move considering they cost $300 and up) or buy a digital-to-analog signal converter box (about $25) that will connect your wireless earphone transmitter to your Blu-ray or DVD players. For details on a digital-to-analog converter, see tinyurl.com/knqtatb.

 

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@gmail.com or write to Tech Q&A, 425 ­Portland Av. S., ­Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.

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