Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Prevent Being Hit by CryptoWall 2.0

CryptoWall 2.0 is a trojan that encrypts data files found on infected computers, rendering the data useless. If the data can be found in a place that is given a drive letter, then it is at risk of being encrypted, whether it is on a network drive, connected external hard drive, USB thumb drive, or other removable media (CD-ROMs and DVDs are safe due to the read-only nature of these media). The trojan targets files in an array of file types, generally Excel files, Word documents, pictures, and audio files (when I was hit by it, the .PNGs in my encrypted folders were spared, but the .JPGs and .GIFs were lost), and when it is finished encrypting, three files with instructions on how to get your data back are left in effected folders. To make matters worse, it deletes shadow volume copies so a system restore will not work to recover your data.


Since the only sure way to get your files back (at the time of this writing) is to pay a fee to the bad guys to decrypt your data, CryptoWall 2.0 falls under the category of ransomware. It is scary to know that our important information, precious memories, and even livelihoods can be held hostage and lost forever if we refuse to pay up. I was hit by this devastating trojan, but I refuse to pay them a penny. Luckily for me, I followed my own advice and have backups of my most important data, so I only lost a few files of any circumstance. However, I would like to do my best to prevent this from happening again since restoring files is time-consuming. After doing some research, I've come up with a few ways to stop CryptoWall before your computer is infected by it. Some of this is common sense, and there are no guarantees of safety, but these methods can offer a bit of security.

Do Not Open Strange E-Mail Attachments

One of the most common ways that CryptoWall spreads is through e-mail attachments. These attachments may appear to have file extensions like .PDF or .DOC, but in reality they are executable files that will install the trojan on your computer. Only open attachments from people that you trust, and even then, scan them for viruses.

Use AdBlocker

It is unfortunate to have to say this since some people make their livings off of advertisements, but blocking ads may be essential for the time being in order to prevent CryptoWall infestation. I never open strange e-mail attachments, and I always scan attachments with my anti-virus program (which I make sure to keep updated), but CryptoWall still got through. It has been reported that this trojan can tacitly install itself using exploits in Adobe Flash Player, and it has been transmitted through advertising networks.

Install CryptoPrevent

CryptoPrevent by FoolishIT adds a layer of protection to your computer by disallowing the installation of CryptoPrevent, as well as preventing programs from running from the folders where the trojan is typically installed. I would advise you to download and install this utility, especially if you do not elect to block ads (those of us that make our livings, or at least a bit of extra spending cash from ads thank you).

Do Not Leave Physical Backup Devices Connected

If you keep physical backups of your data on external hard drives or other storage media, then you should not leave them attached to your computer after you are finished saving your files to them. Should you choose to do otherwise, CryptoWall might encrypt your backup copies, and if that happens, you're screwed. The same applies to online storage such as DropBox if you have your folders synced. Luckily, most online storage services allow users to rollback to previous versions, so you would be able to go back to the non-encrypted versions of your files.

Hopefully these tips can help you to prevent being infected by CryptoWall. Protect yourself at all times and keep your data safe!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Will Hatred Cause a Rash of Violence?

Hatred logo

Hatred is a third-person shooting game created by Destructive Creations, a development house operating out of Poland. The game is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of next year, and for the time being it is only going to be released for Windows. The game is expected to be violent and gory.

This sounds like a description of just about any mundane game that comes out these days, but for some odd reason, Hatred has stirred up yet another controversy in gaming, right on the heels of #Gamergate. Is it because there are no female or transgendered protagonists? Is it because the game will only be released to the PC Master Race? Is it because it's a third-person shooter rather than another first-person military shooter clone? Well, that could be a part of it, because instead of taking out tangos, players will be going on a rampage slaughtering civilians in this game, or at least this is what is being said, and critics are saying that this will cause impressionable behavior and real-life violence.

This is an argument that has been debated for years now (centuries actually, if you include media other than the relatively new entertainment form of video games). In one of my university elective classes, I wrote a paper explaining how I believed that video games were not the root cause of school violence. In more recent years, I have been reading more about society and "the redpill', and I now believe and have observed how the media can effect the minds and opinions of both young and old. However, I still firmly believe that violent video games will not cause gamers to go on Elliot Rodgers-esque killing sprees.

The real causes of violence run much deeper. These causes can be intense depression, hopelessness, lack of parental involvement, and much, much more, but playing games alone is not going to cause people to want to act out what their virtual avatars do on screens in reality. trust me. I did a lot of gaming in my day, and playing games did not make me want to go on a rampage; it only made me want to play more and sit on my ass accomplishing nothing of real value, but I had fun. Parents should be involved in their children's lives, making sure that they know the difference between virtual violence and violence in the real world, and that real actions have real consequences. Adults that want to go berserk because they cannot get laid or whatever should learn game, take measures to stop being a social degen, maybe even travel to some place where they'll have an easier time with the women. Putting an end to violent games will not solve these problems (except to the degree that social degen nerds that are out of shape with no job or social skills might be forced to go outside and develop themselves, but this could apply to "acceptable" games like Candy Crush and the like too).

These days, when a lot of games are heading to be polite, colorful, politically correct, and trying to be some kind of higher art, rather than just an entertainment – we wanted to create something against trends. Something different, something that could give the player a pure, gaming pleasure. (Quoted from the developer's website).

With games like Depression Quest being released, I'd have to agree with the above statement. It seems like the creators may have dabbled in some redpill reading, maybe the 48 Laws of Power. Looking at the trailer (watch here:, they must have adhered to the Sixth Law of Power, since it certainly has gotten a lot of attention. I must say that I am intrigued myself.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Use Notes in Mobile Communication Apps to Remember Contacts

In today's world of smartphones and other mobile gadgets, it is quite possible that most of your communication will take place over mobile apps rather than more traditional methods such as phone calls, SMS messages, and e-mail. Whether you are adding classmates for virtual study groups, scanning QR codes rather than swapping business cards, or swapping contact information with girls at the bar that you want to meet later, you may find your contact lists bloating. With so many people in your contacts, you may forget where you met them or their significance in your life.

Luckily, many mobile communication apps allow you to take notes about each of your contacts. All that you have to do is open the respective note function in the app that you are using, select your contact, add a few comments, and you will be able to refer to them when you forget who's who. This was especially helpful for me when I found my WeChat list approaching 200 contacts, but I was too buzzed from the night before to remember where I met each contact (or how to pronounce each Chinese character in their name). 

If the app that you are using does not allow you to take notes about your contacts, then there are alternative. You can edit the name of your contact and jot a few notes down about them. This name change only appears on your end, so you won't have to worry about offending or alarming your friends unless they get hold of your phone. Your other option would be to save your chat logs and try to get their name and other important information in your chat history.