Chapman University IS&T has recently become aware of a developing ransomware threat to the campus community. Chapman has already updated university computers with new anti-virus definitions to protect against this specific threat, but users are encouraged to safeguard their personal devices and follow a few helpful tips.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts data on your device and asks the user to pay money in order to get their data back.  This particular piece of malware uses exceptionally strong encryption so there is no practical way to get the data back unless you pay the malware operators.  However, even if you pay the malware operator there is no guarantee that you will get your data back.  This particular variant uses infected Word (.doc, .docx) or Excel (.xls and .xlsx) files to spread the ransomware.

What is the best way to protect my personal data from Ransomware?

Chapman has updated Anti-Virus (AV) software definitions so most of the ransomware can be filtered out on University provided devices.  However, updating your anti-virus may still not be enough to protect your files on your personal devices as malware operators often morph the malware to bypass defection by anti-virus. The most effective way to combat this malware is to simply avoid opening attachments from unknown senders.

A few helpful reminders:

  • Do not open any emails from senders you don’t know
  • Do not open invoices, Excel, Word documents, or any other attachments from unknown sources
  • Back up your critical data frequently on an external drive
  • Update the Anti-Virus software on your personal computers to the latest virus definitions
  • Report any suspicious email by forwarding the message including attachments to
  • If you experience any issues or slowness of your devices, shut them down and seek help from (714 997-6600)

How do I know if my personal computer is infected?

This particular ransomware variant got it’s name from the fact it renames all your files with the extension *.locky.

Also once the ransomware finished encrypting the files it changes your desktop background with instructions on how to pay the ransom and recover your files. An example of these instructions is shown below.

Ransomware Background Image

Ransomware applications generally update your desktop background with an image containing instructions for paying the ransom.

The most common way that Locky arrives is as follows:

  • You receive an email containing an attached document (Troj/DocDl-BCF).
  • The document contents look scrambled.
  • The document advises you to enable macros “if the data encoding is incorrect.”
  • If you enable macros, you don’t actually correct the text encoding (that’s a subterfuge); instead, you run code inside the document that saves a file to disk and runs it.
  • The saved file (Troj/Ransom-CGX) serves as a downloader, which fetches the final malware payload from the crooks.
  • The final payload could be anything, but in this case is usually the Locky Ransomware (Troj/Ransom-CGW).


A ransomware infected file. Enabling macros will trigger a script to download the malware to your computer, locking you out of your own files.

If you’d like to learn additional details regarding “Locky” ransomware, please read this article at the 
McAfee website