The Crypto Virus: What It Is and How to Remove It

A nasty way to lose files

A person looking at a laptop screen displaying a warning message that their files have been encrypted

AndreyPopov, Getty Images

Booted up your computer to find a threatening message that says you have to pay a ransom in order to access your files again? You may have been infected with a Crypto virus

The Crypto virus only affects Windows-based systems. 

What Is the Crypto Virus?

The Crypto virus also known as the CryptoLocker virus is a dangerous form of ransomware that encrypts files on your computer, before demanding you pay a fine in exchange for being able to access them again. 

CryptoLocker declares that a time limit in which you have to pay the ransom otherwise your files are destroyed. To decrypt them, you have to get a private key from the ransomware by paying a ransom. 

Never pay the ransom. It won't remove the virus, is highly unlikely to decrypt your files, and you'll be giving into blackmail and coercive threats. 

How Does the Crypto Virus Work?

The CryptoLocker doesn't lock you out of your computer like some ransomware viruses, but it does stop you from accessing critical files. 

It warns that you have to obtain a private key in exchange for a fee of $100 or more or else your files will be destroyed permanently. Unfortunately, whether you pay or not, the files are encrypted and it's near impossible to decrypt them.

It's vital that you detect a dangerous threat such as the Crypto or CryptoLocker virus before it infects your computer, so that your files are safe. 

How Do I Know I Have the Crypto Virus?

Before seeing a warning alert from the virus itself, you may notice your PC running slower than before or acting like it's busy performing actions in the background. That's because encrypting files uses up a lot of system resources and time. Encryption also decreases your free storage space while it's in progress. 

Once the encryption process is complete, the CryptoLocker ransomware isn't subtle. It announces itself via a separate window the moment you boot up your computer. Its warning will tell you how your files have been encrypted and the amount of money it wants in exchange for your files.

Sometimes, it will make fraudulent claims to further intimidate you, such as stating that your computer contains child pornography or other highly illegal content. 

Unlike other viruses, once you're infected with CryptoLocker, your files are effectively lost forever. That's why it's important to run regular antivirus software scans as these tools can detect the virus within files or attachments that you download while browsing online. A scan can spot the CryptoLocker ransomware before you open it and install it to your computer. 

How Did I Get the Crypto Virus?

The most common method of infection is via emails with unknown attachments. Oftentimes, these attachments look innocent enough resembling Word documents or PDF files, but they're actually hidden executable programs that go on to infect your PC. 

As a form of trojan, the Crypto virus can't self-replicate but if you accidentally install a suspicious app it can become bundled in with the process. In particular, this is prevalent on torrenting websites and other file sharing sites. 

How Do I Get Rid of the Crypto Virus?

One of the major issues with the Crypto or CryptoLocker virus is that once it's infected your PC, it's incredibly difficult to retrieve the encrypted files again. Some forms of the virus don't even decrypt the files after paying the ransom. 

That's one of the reasons why it's important to regularly backup your files and data

To remove the virus itself, the best way to do so is to use antivirus software, as well as a malware removal tool to guarantee it's completely removed. 

Antivirus software can take many hours to complete the process, depending on the speed of your computer, but it also offers the best methods to remove the malicious files. 

It's also worth installing a malware removal tool which helps detect ransomware like Crypto and delete it before it causes any problems.

Similar to antivirus software, malware scanning can take several hours depending on the size of your computer's hard drive, as well as the computer's speed. 

You can also use System Restore to return to an earlier point on your computer before you picked up the Crypto virus, but this may not decrypt the files. Make sure to choose a time period where you are certain you didn't already have the ransomware on your computer. 

You can also choose to reformat your computer's hard drive to guarantee you've deleted the Crypto virus. However, this method isn't for the faint of heart. Be sure you know what you're doing before you start a reformat, because all the files and applications on your system will be erased.

It can take a long time to reformat your computer and it requires a certain amount of knowledge when it comes to setting your computer up. Don't rush into the decision and try all other methods first. 

How Can I Avoid Getting the Crypto Virus Again?

Viruses, including the Crypto virus, are generally contracted through a specific process. That means there are some key ways in which you can lower your chances of being re-infected with the Crypto virus or receiving any other malware or virus. Here's a look at some of the most crucial things to learn. 

  • Update your antivirus software and malware protection. Keep your antivirus software and malware protection up to date. New virus definitions are released regularly and these keep your PC informed on what to look for with new virus and malware based threats. They can detect threats like Crypto before they infect your system. 
  • Don't open suspicious attachments or files. Scan them with an antivirus program first to be sure that they're safe and don't contain rogue Trojans. Never open anything from an unfamiliar source. 
  • Don't click on links you don't recognize. Phishing links can look like they're from a reputable source when they're not. Pay attention to what you click on and always be cautious.
  • Don't pirate software. Trojans and ransomware like the Crypto virus love to attach themselves to illicit software. Buy your software legally and avoid pirating anything in order to be safe online.