Held to ransom: a warning

I’ve had a slightly scary morning.

Part of my morning routine is to browse happily through what Pinterest believes might be of interest to me, pinning here, clicking through there. This morning I spotted a pretty flower shaped paper piecing block, and clicked onto it. Hurray! There was a free pattern pdf to download. Cue ominous music…..

I downloaded it. I double clicked to open it. Oh s…..t. Loud voice and flashing screen telling me to ring the number below, a virus has been installed on my computer and I should call this number to get ‘Microsoft’ help in getting it removed. I couldn’t shut down either the application or my laptop, and the bloody voice and flashing screen blared on and on.

I took the whole shooting match to the Apple store. Within 10 minutes it was clear that this was ransomware, and had I rung the US phone number, I’d have been told I had to cough up or lose the lot. The lovely people at Next Byte got rid of it for me, I got rid of the pdf, and I just want to let you know to avoid the problem item, or at least approach it with caution.

Here it is. If you see this on Pinterest and you want to download it, make sure your anti-virus software is activated and up to date.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 12.16.30 pm

I’ve tried to tell Pinterest, but there’s no dropdown menu option for ‘one of the pins you sent me links to a pdf that instals malware if you download it’ in their complaints area, so I suspect my warning hasn’t been too effective. I’ve put a warning comment under the pin which will hopefully give anyone pause. Strangely enough, the owner of the blog has now repinned 21 of my pins.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 1.22.42 pmAm I suspicious? Well yes, a bit… I may be doing her a great injustice, and someone has piggybacked onto her pretty pattern, but since she’s repinned everything since I wrote the comment, I feel I’m entitled to some doubt.

Anyway, you have been warned!


38 thoughts on “Held to ransom: a warning

  1. EllaDee says:

    Wow 😦 This is new, to me at least, in a couple of ways. I hadn’t realised PDFs can carry malware and hadn’t heard of ransomware. Your posts and a couple of Google searches has got me up to speed. Your Next Byte people are gems, and the ransomware perpetrators are absolute bastards. I found this https://help.pinterest.com/en/articles/report-something-pinterest#Web which seems to be a way of reporting issues to Pinterest.
    Yep, looks pretty suspicious to me. What a crappy experience for you and waste of a morning. Hope the rest of the day and upcoming weekend is better 🙂

  2. katechiconi says:

    Yup, I tried reporting there, and I’ve also sent an email on their form with a link to this blog so they can read about it at more length than the form allows. Anyway, it’s done, and I’ve got brand spanking new antivirus software, and will finally get round to setting up my 1Tb external hard drive for backup… That way, if the bastards get through, I can wipe the lot and reinstall from backup, since I won’t be plugged into it all day. I actually feel quite smug about not panicking and knowing where to go for help, and last but not least, having a Mac with super duper tech help!

  3. More flappy arseholes. No end to them.

    • katechiconi says:

      As you say! And particularly mean to attach it to a quilt pattern pdf, since many quilters are not especially savvy about this stuff and would therefore be more vulnerable to the nasty game the said flappy arseholes are playing.

  4. tialys says:

    Some mornings you just wish you’d stayed in bed a bit longer. :/

  5. Grannymar says:

    Oh Kate, I don’t blame you being suspicious, I would too. On the other hand her site may be hacked without her knowing and that leads to another dreadful thought …. 21 of your pins – can you check them in any way to see if they have a virus added?

    • katechiconi says:

      The pins themselves are held by Pinterest, not my computer, so I don’t need to worry. The nasty stuff was piggybacked onto a pdf I downloaded. If I don’t download without having my anti-virus software activated, I should be safe. And none of the pins she repinned originate with me. Also, I don’t offer downloads, so there’s no way anyone could use anything of mine as a carrier for nasty stuff. But thank you so much for your concern!

  6. I have been told my so many Mac owners that they don’t need anti-virus software because it’s only PCs that are susceptible to viruses etc. As you have proved this is simply no longer the case. Everyone needs anti-virus software and a back-up (in case your hard drive goes). I worked in publishing for a number of years and had these things drummed into me… after all you don’t want the 1000 page book you have just finished the layout for disappearing into oblivion.
    Many is the time that my virus checker has stopped me before I get to a dodgy site!
    So pleased you did not end up with a disaster… I do think Pinterest should take this sort of thing more seriously though.

    • katechiconi says:

      I don’t think the thing installed properly, hence the speed at which Next Byte were able to get rid of it, so I suspect it was primarily aimed at PCs – the recording even talked about PCs and specified PCs in the window with the message. But I’m not taking any chances. We’re installing some very up to date anti virus stuff on my Mac, the Husband’s tablet, and both our phones! And this is the impetus I needed (read: smart kick up the backside) to finally get round to formatting and installing my 1Tb external hard drive for backup. No excuses any more….

      • Glad to hear it. Mr Snail sorted out a friend’s Mac a few months ago and found half a dozen viruses on it (some Mac-specific)… she just couldn’t believe it could have happened, but is safe and happy now she too has an up-to-date virus checker 🙂

  7. Hi Kate, sorry to hear you had such an awakening! I doubt the original owner of the design knows anything about the malware. Your items have probably been repinned by a robot, possibly for future use as a lure to others. The flappies can just put a link that makes you think you are getting the pattern but you never actually do because the pattern doesn’t actually exist. They only stole the photo. I’m so pleased you got it sorted quickly and relatively easily.

    • katechiconi says:

      It was a bit nerve-wracking for a bit… I’m sure you’re right about the originator of the pattern, I think it may be a site where she has made the pattern available that has caused the problem. Anyway, a warning was called for, both on my blog and on the pin, and letting Pinterest know there’s a problem can’t hurt either.

  8. Thanks for the warning. That’s scary indeed. I’m not in pinterest but obviously the same kind of thing could happen anywhere. Glad you were able to get it fixed so “easily,” and yes, back up back up back up!

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s worth knowing about, because it shows that anyone can be a target. For most of my life I have been a fervent backer-up, but when I changed from a desk computer to a laptop, I got slack about it, and it’s been a few months…

  9. A very strange story indeed. I am not on Pinterest but it is always good to share those strange happenings in ‘cyber space’. have a lovely weekend, Johanna

  10. Oh yikes. A friend of ours got a different form of ransomware on his computer. It sent a message saying that his hard drive had been locked by the federal government as part of an investigation. He could have it unlocked if he sent money to a “prosecutor” who could arrange an off-the-books plea deal. Bogus, of course, but this particular hack destroys all your data remotely if you don’t pay in a certain time period. Apparently they’ve even hacked police departments, who pay because they need arrest records and crime lab info stat. Bizarre.

    • katechiconi says:

      Compared with that, I had a very, very lucky escape. Wouldn’t it be amazing if malware designers turned their talents to more positive and beneficial outcomes…

  11. Jule says:

    It seems to me you’ve been experiencing a streak of Bad Karma recently. 😉 Glad to hear all is fine again. 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m beginning to think so! Every time I think something must be the last bit of bad stuff, along comes another one. However, as my father says ‘Illegitimi nil carborundum’ (Don’t let the bastards grind you down).

  12. Magpie Sue says:

    Just when I was feeling like getting back into cyber space…! I’ve heard about these hack attacks. What a horrifying experience. Glad you were able to clear it up fairly quickly and with relative ease. If those hackers would just put as much effort into something legal we could all benefit!

    • katechiconi says:

      I agree. All that energy and thought directed at positive outcomes would be so beneficial. But I can’t see it happening. I was fortunate (and cautious) and it never fully took a grip on my hard drive.

  13. Carole says:

    Crikey! Thanks for the warning and I’m glad you got it all sorted ok. I really must sort out some anti-virus for my Mac. Like a lot of people I’ve been complacent due to Macs not being quite as susceptible as PCs.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ve gone for Maximum Security from Trend Micro. You buy a 2 year licence with option to extend, and it’s good for 6 devices, either Mac or PC and iOS or Android for phones, so we’re installing it on everything. Call me cynical, but I wonder sometimes if it isn’t the makers of anti-virus software who invent the malware that makes their product necessary!

  14. rutigt says:

    Thank you for the warning!!! I´m always thinking twice before opening something i´m not sure is allright, but sometimes I forget to be careful. I´m not used to distrust everything. That´s not my kind of world.

    • katechiconi says:

      Nor mine, but I’ve learned to be, let’s say, cautious… I was very lucky, the thing didn’t instal properly, so we were able to save everything, but it could have been so much worse.

  15. dayphoto says:

    Gosh! I don’t think twice about downloading from Pintrest. Thanks for telling me/us…what a mess!


  16. Kirsten says:

    Isn’t it funny how things that look innocuous aren’t! I have pinned a few things that when I have gone back to later for more info say they have been removed because of potential spam content!

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