7 October 2014

Phishing emails pretending to be from Australia Post as well as other well-known organisations have been targeting Australians with crypto-malware (also known as ransomware).

Australia Post has published a warning about the emails, which claim to advise that a ‘courier was unable to deliver a parcel’. Australia Post’s warning also includes a list of possible sender email addresses used for the scam.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) today reported its ABC News 24 services were affected as a result of an ‘IT issue’ related to the Australia Post phishing campaign.

Australia Post stresses it does not send messages of this kind. Similar phishing emails may also appear to originate from other courier companies such as FedEx and UPS. If you receive a message you suspect of being a phishing or a scam email, you should delete it.

About ransomware

There are different versions of ransomware circulating. Stay Smart Online recently advised of the increase of crypto-variants including CryptoLocker, CryptoWall and others which encrypt files on your computer or network, rendering them useless unless you obtain the unlocking key—by paying the ransom.

Recovery of systems infected by these versions is virtually impossible without clean backups. Prevention is the best approach to any malware, particularly ransomware.

The ways you may be infected can be complex, but in simple terms, methods include via botnets and other malware, downloaded via phishing messages or by visiting malicious websites.

Some less sophisticated types of ransomware (such as the recent police ransomware campaign) simply blocked access to your computer or pretended to lock your files. With careful action you can remove this ransomware and regain access to your files without paying a ransom.

More sophisticated versions like CryptoLocker and newer examples such as CryptoWall actually encrypt files on your computer (hence crypto-malware). Without the encryption key you cannot access your files.

The best alternative solution can often be to restore your files from a clean backup, if you have one available.

If you suspect your computer or network is infected by ransomware, you should seek technical advice immediately. Time is critical.

Staying safe

Prevention is the best antidote to ransomware and other malware attacks.

  • Use spam filters and be cautious when opening emails, especially if there are attachments.
  • Make sure you are using a reputable security product.
  • Make sure it is up-to-date and switched on.
  • Make sure your operating system and applications are up-to-date and fully patched.
  • Run a full scan of your computer—regularly.
  • Set and use strong and unique passwords.
  • Set passwords on all your hardware devices (modems and routers).
  • Back up your data.
  • Keep a backup copy of your data in a safe place, disconnected from your computer and the internet.
  • Only visit reputable websites and online services.

Recovery

The major problem with encryption based ransomware (crypto-malware) is that once your computer has become infected, the only way to recover your files is from a clean backup (if the backup has not also been encrypted) or by receiving the encryption key from the scammers.

If you have a clean back up of your data, you can use this to restore your files once you have re-established your system, free of infection.

You can also keep a copy of the encrypted files in case future events make decryption possible. As happened for some victims affected with CryptoLocker, authorities may take down these ransomware gangs in the future. It might become possible to obtain the encryption key for your data.

More information

See our previous alert with more detail about these types of ransomware.

Stay Smart Online recently warned of scam messages targeting Australia Post customers.

Stay Smart Online has information on managing spam, and avoiding scams and hoaxes.

Stay Smart Online advice about setting and using security software and securing your computer.

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone's circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.

Feedback

Thank you to those subscribers who have provided feedback to our Alerts and Newsletters. We are very interested in your feedback and where possible take on board your suggestions or requests.

Disclaimer

This information has been prepared by Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.

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