ATLANTA - There's a new email scam out there that may be sidestepping your anti-virus filter. That filter is good at catching suspicious documents, but this one seems to have created a workaround by burying itself in other things.
A computer security software company called SophosLabs explains that it's, "Ransomware hidden inside a Word document that's hidden inside a PDF."
It's much like Russian nesting dolls. You get the spam email, but attached is a PDF. You open it because your virus filter didn't flag it because the bad stuff is buried inside. Then, you get a Word document, and you're asked to "enable editing."
When you do that you unlock the attack. And now your data is being held hostage. You'll be asked to pay ransom to have it unlocked.
“SophosLabs saw a large blast at the time of the Naked Security post. It has died down since, but as a technique, there is no reason to believe the cybercriminals won't go back to it if it is effective at bypassing some security protections. If this attack worked well, they will likely use it again,” explained Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at SophosLabs.
The team goes on to say that if your system is backed up, you are in a better position to say 'no.' You take your computer to an expert and get it sorted out. But, too many people do pay. That's why it's so successful.
Here are three steps to protect yourself. Backup and often. And keep your computer system back-up off site - like on an external hard drive. Be cautious of any unsolicited emails with attachments. Just delete them. Patch early, patch often, which means keep your software updated. A lot of updates are in place to patch up the system weaknesses that allow viruses in.