CryptoWall has arrived

CryptoWall infected a staff members computer recently.  All the files on his C: and H: drive have been encrypted and he no longer has access to them.  Fortunately the files on his H: drive are backed up in several locations, so those are recoverable.  The files on the C: drive have been lost.

The information below the horizontal line came from the Sophos web-site, the WOU anti-virus software company.

Below the double horizontal lines, you will find recommendations from Sophos on how to prevent being infected with this type of malware.


CryptoWall and CryptoDefense

New variants of file-encrypting ransomware called CryptoWall and CryptoDefense have been popping up since at least April 2014.

SophosLabs threat researcher Anand Ajjan says CryptoWall has the same code as CryptoDefense, and only differs in the name.

If you see a message like the one below, you’re in trouble – many, if not most, of the data files on your hard drive or any connected drives will be scrambled, and it’s simply not practicable to crack the encryption used by the crooks.

(You don’t have to pay, of course. Despite losing data, police in the New Hampshire town of Durham showed a bit of public resistance to the crooks, announcing that they were “definitely not paying any ransom.”)

The message gives instructions on how to use the Tor anonymizing proxy to access a website where you can pay to unlock your files:


If you do go to the payment website, you come to a screen that shows a clock counting down the time you have left to pay the ransom.

Leave it too long and the price to decrypt your files doubles:


In broken but intelligible English, the website tells you:

We are present a special software - CryptoWall Decrypter - which is allow to decrypt and return control to all your encrypted files.

This website (blocked by Sophos) includes links to payment options, and offers you the chance to “Decrypt 1 file for FREE”:


Unlike the crooks SophosLabs found who are trying to copy CryptoLocker but without actually encrypting your files, CryptoWall’s encryption can’t be reversed without the key.

That means if your files get locked, you either have to pay up, or “do a Durham,” and kiss your files goodbye.

According to SophosLabs, a common way of spreading CryptoWall infections is through exploit kits called RIG (also known as “Goon”) and Angler.

Exploit kits are web pages containing pre-packaged exploits that can be used to deliver malware of your choice to unsuspecting victims.

Often, one group of cybercrooks will simply “rent” exploit kit services from other cybercrooks on a pay-per-install basis.

So, whereas some ransomware attacks use social engineering in spam to trick you into downloading the malware, CryptoWall can get onto your computer just by visiting a website that is rigged up with an exploit kit.

Sophos Anti-Virus (in endpoint and gateway products) detects and blocks the various components of this threat with the following names:

  • HPmal/Ransom-I: the Cryptowall/Cryptodefense malware itself.
  • Troj/ExpJS-KX: web pages containing the RIG exploit kit.
  • Mal/Generic-S and Mal/ExpJava-AF: other exploit kit pages associated with this threat.



IT admin:

  • prevent SPAM email from reaching end users.
  • educate users not to open any attachments that they are not expecting.
  • ensure local anti-virus is up to date on all computers and is active (ensure the user has not disabled the protection).
  • ensure your central shares (that endpoints update from) are receiving updates from Sophos Update Manager – check your console.

Regular user:

  • avoid opening any attachment emailed to you that you were not expecting.
  • watch out for emails with attachments suggesting you must reply quickly or ‘act fast’ and hence feel compelled to open the attachment quickly – without considering the source.
  • check your Sophos shield in the system tray and make sure it does not have a red cross or warning triangle.
    Good Bad

    Move your mouse point over the shield and ensure ‘On-access scanning: disabled’ is not shown.


    Double-click the Sophos shield to open the program.  On the left hand side, under the ‘Status’ panel make sure the ‘Last updated’ value is recent…

  • At WOU “Web control” is Disabled.  When this is turned on, it will block you from going to specific categories of web sites, some of which my be required for your research.

    …the date shown when hovering the mouse point over the shield does not indicate a recent update in protection, but only that it checked with the update source and is in sync.
  • contact your IT department if in any doubt.

Wireless Update

Two methods of guest wireless access are now available on the WOU campus.

  1. Sponsored Guest
    1. A guest account can be created prior to the guest arriving on campus.  Accounts can be created by the APA’s, Service Request Desk, Hamersly Library reference desk or the Werner University Center Information Desk.
    2. The guest will select SSID: wou-guest
    3. The SSID password will be provided by the sponsor.
    4. The guest will login using the credentials provided by the sponsor.
  2. Self-serve Guest
    1. A guest account is created by the guest when they arrive on campus.
    2. The guest will select SSID: wou-guest-open
    3. When the guest selects SSID wou-guest-open, they will be presented with the web pages seen below.
    4. The guest login credentials will be sent by both text message and e-mail, once they complete the form below.
    5. The guest will login using the credentials sent to them as a result of their form submission.
  3. Campus users will continue to use SSID: wou-secure.

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NetApp EF-550 SSD (solid state drive) update

The WOU EDW (data warehouse), VDI and Moodle have all been moved from spinning drive storage to SSD storage, utilizing the NetApp EF550.  VDI is running on a RAID 0 pool, while Moodle, Oracle and Cognos are running on RAID 6. 


The server side utilizes the Cisco UCS blade platform.  The RedHat operating system runs on VMware.  The communication between server and storage is via a HA pair of Cisco Nexus 5000’s, utilizing 8Gb fiber-channel SFP’s.


Significant data throughput improvements has been noted on the following three applications:

  • Data Warehouse  (utilizes both Cognos Insight and Oracle 12c database)
    • Reports that previously took 25 – 30 seconds to complete now finish in 5 – 10 seconds
    • The user experience, including moving through menu items, creating queries and reports within Cognos, has increased significantly
  • VDI (virtual Windows 7 desktop lab environment running on VMware)
    • 200 concurrent lab VMs, all running on an NetApp EF550.  Previously these 200 VMs were spread accross two FAS-3250 heads, a FAS-2240-2 with flash pool and a FAS-2240-2
    • Windows logins that previously took 45 – 80 seconds, now take 20 – 25 seconds
  • Moodle version 2.7.1
    • The user load is currently peaking at about 186 users on the current term Moodle server.  See graph here
    • The http response time on the current term, running on EF550 SSD drives averages 25 milli-seconds, with 60 milli-second peaks.  See graph here
    • The http response time on last summer term, running on spinning drives is averages 291 milli-seconds, with 1,635 milli-second peaks.  See graph here
    • Differences in latency between spinning drives and SSD drives were significant during several load test.  See graph here  The large spike on the right side of the graph was 580 users utilizing spinning drives, while the small bump further to the right of the spike was 5,125 users utilizing SSD drives.