In the middle of the current worldwide epidemic, unscrupulous individuals are leveraging on the panic to get rich. Kaspersky, an antivirus software maker, detected the presence of a new computer virus circulating the web. They dubbed it the “nCov Computer Virus”.
What is the Digital nCov?
This digital menace contains Trojans and worms disguised as information about the Covid-19. They come in the form of documents (.docx), PDFs, and videos (.mp4) downloaded from email attachments, ads, or torrent websites. People wanting to learn more about Covid-19 and how to protect themselves instead get their files held up for money.
The digital nCov takes your files hostage. It encrypts the files and renames it with an unusual and long file extension containing an “ID”, an email address in brackets, and ends with .ncov, according to PCrisk.com. You will not be able to access your files. It can even interrupt your whole computer network if you are working on a company computer.
The Ransom Note
When you try to open the encrypted files, a ransom note will pop up. It will ask you to contact them right away via a QQ email address, saying that the faster you contact them, the “cheaper” it will be for you to decrypt your files. The note contains instructions on how to write the email and even a link to a cryptocurrency tutorial, which is their preferred form of compensation.
There could also be a text file (.txt) with the same message.
Can You Remove It?
The default yet drastic thing to do is to reformat your whole computer and restore your files from a backup. Do this as soon as possible to stop the virus from getting to more files and get more sensitive information.
But it’s more likely that victims do not have full backups of their computers. In that case, PCrisk put together a very informative article on how to try to save your files and computer from the virus via Safe Mode. You can also check out their screenshots of digital nCov infected files and ransom notes.
While these two options could save you, as with illnesses, the best “cure” is prevention. You can prevent an attack like this by installing a sturdy antivirus software.
Why You Need an Antivirus ASAP
What do you access on your computer? Online banking, personal and work email, social media accounts with lots of personal info, subscriptions and memberships, online shopping websites with your credit card info embedded in them. Would you leave these unprotected?
Just like wearing face masks, antivirus software blocks threats from entering your computer’s system. And like frequent hand-washing, an antivirus program will regularly scan for and clear your system of suspicious files.
A good antivirus software not only defends you from downloaded threats. It should also keep you from downloading malicious files to begin with. One with a cybersecurity component is ideal because it will protect your sensitive online information as well as files in your computer.
And your computer is not the only one vulnerable to threats. These days, people access websites via mobile browsers and apps, so you should also install antivirus for your phone and tablet. Latest models even have biometrics info like face recognition and thumbprints. If left unprotected, this could become a case of stolen identity.
Best Practices Against Getting Infected with the Digital nCov
Like good hygiene habits, developing a safe internet usage habit is the key to keeping yourself safe from hackers and ransomware makers. Here are some things you can do to have a safe browsing experience:
Avoid logging in to your accounts using a public computer.
If you’re already logged into an account and you connect to a public WiFi using your own device, that’s generally alright. But entering your username and password using a public device is risky. There could be installed software that remembers your keystrokes or you may forget to log out. This could lead to you losing your account or having your identity stolen.
Check file extensions before downloading
Kaspersky tells Philstar that they have so far only identified 10 virus files, listed below.
While these are exclusive to the digital nCov, the general advice is to never install a .exe file. You can check this easily by hovering over the file link and checking the bottom left of your screen.
If you’re still unsure, better not download it.
Only download from trustworthy websites
If you’re looking for information regarding Covid-19 or any other information, stick to official sources like the World Health Organization. These websites are usually in the first two pages of search engine results. Sure, there are times you need to dig deeper for the info you want, but if the website looks dodgy and the file extensions are masked, then best not click on it.
Back up your files regularly
Computer users often take backups for granted, but they are essential for file longevity. External hard drives are more affordable now, and good quality solid-state drives provide faster writing speeds and better durability.
If you don’t want another device to mind, you can opt to back up important files in the cloud. Google Drive’s free default storage is 15gb, which you can increase for an annual fee. Other cloud storage providers include Dropbox (2GB free) and MEGA (50GB free).
You can automate backups or manually transfer select files to your external drive whenever you see fit.