There is a new computer virus that has been discovered by Palo Alto Networks(a security company). The virus is called KeRanger and it was written specifically for Apple mac computers (i.e. iMacs, Mac Minis, Mac Pros, Macbooks and the rest of them).
Essentially, it’s what type of virus known as ransomware. In the case of KeRanger it comes to your computer through version 2.9 of an application called Transmission. This is basically an application for Mac computers that lets you download things using the popular Bit Torrent protocol. If you happen to have this version of Transmission then it would basically go encrypt all your personal files (e.g. documents, photos that you have stored on your computer, any music that you might have).
To over simplify things your data is scrambled and then they generate a private/secret key/code required to unscramble or decrypt your data which is stored in a remote server somewhere. If you were infected then you will be asked to visit a site, pay the ransom fee of 1 bitcoin (approximately £290) and you will be able to download the decryption key required.
This is also very similar to the Cryptolocker malware that surfaced back in late 2013 in that it (like most ransomware) also asked for a ransom before it gave you a decryption key.
Now you might be asking “Adi, how can I defend myself against KeRanger?” Well, the vast majority of you out there have to do nothing if you have never downloaded anything using Transmission. In fact if you don’t have Transmission on your mac then you are golden. If you already have Transmission then I would strongly urge you to update to the latest version by visiting the Transmission website right now. In fact, the folks at Palo Alto Networks (the people that discovered this virus) have written a blog post showing what you might be able to do.
In any event, don’t pay the ransom. As tempting as it may seem paying the ransom will just encourage these criminals to continue their activities.
I also think that this proves another line of thinking that I have on this very issue. You can have the best anti-virus software in the world. With that being said the truth of the matter is even if you do, you are the only one who can defend yourself from malicious software like this infecting your computer.
Am I saying that you should not use Bit Torrent software on the Mac? No, I am saying not to use a particular version of Transmission. To be fair, there are other choices out there as far as Bit Torrent software goes like uTorrent. If you are uncomfortable downloading stuff using Bit Torrent, then don’t use it. At the end of the day nobody is forcing you to do so.
For a bit of context, Bit Torrent is a standard/protocol where everybody shares chunks of files with each other. This basically makes downloading software and other things several times faster. Companies sometimes might prefer distributing software or operating systems like this because they can save money by allowing people like you and me to share chunks of the download between each other.
Whilst a lot of people use Bit Torrent to illegally download movies and TV shows there are perfectly legitimate uses for using Bit Torrent. For example people use it to get Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint -both of which are free operating systems that you can put on your computer). In fact, the folks at bit torrent sometimes give away free music via their Bundles service and allow you to download it via Bit Torrent.
This is also another reason why it’s important to keep all your software up-to-date. It’s because of older software that the bad guys can sneak ransomware like this into your computer.
Have you been infected by KeRanger? let me know in the comments.