What You Need to Know About This Year’s Worst Computer Virus

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There are billions of variants of malware floating around the web, and not all of them have names. Most are constructed from the same basic code and cause the same simple problems for users, which means they are easily blocked by firewalls and other rudimentary cybersecurity solutions.

Yet, every once in a while, a malware is unleashed on the internet that causes a noteworthy level of devastation. Recently, the Clop Ransomware earned this distinction, causing an unprecedented level of harm to businesses, organizations and, more recently, regular web users. If you want to protect yourself against the year’s worst virus, read on to learn everything there is to know about Clop.

Clop’s Origins

Clop Ransomware was created by a Russian hacking group, which is now known by the same monicker: CLOP, which derives from the Russian word “klop,” meaning bedbug. The hackers have become somewhat of a global nuisance, hacking their way into extremely high-profile organizations, like Shell, the BBC and various U.S. government agencies at both state and federal levels. It is currently unclear whether CLOP is associated with the Russian government; most Western security experts believe they are a separate entity, but they strongly suspect that any useful information gained from their hacking was probably passed along to the Kremlin. Unfortunately, this includes the data stolen from victims of their ransomware.

Clop’s Operations and Variants

Developed from the widespread CryptoMix ransomware, Clop Ransomware operates in a similar way. Once installed on a device, Clop encrypts all the data it finds and renames files by adding a new file extension, .clop. Clop tends to look for caches that are more likely to contain valuable data, like data backups, vouchers, email lists and financial records. In some instances, the hackers will leak portions of the confidential information they find and threaten to leak the rest unless a ransom is paid.

Unlike other ransomware programs, which tend to target regular web users, Clop Ransomware is known as a “big game hunter,” targeting organizations with massive budgets that can afford to pay large ransoms. Some of Clop’s ransoms have been as high as $20 million — and they have been paid more often than cybersecurity experts would like to admit.

To ensure their ransomware hits high-profile, high-budget targets, CLOP uses phishing campaigns to infect new devices. Posing as legitimate emails or software updates, messages from CLOP contain malicious links that allow the ransomware to download and install. During this process, Clop covertly disables Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials, making it less likely that the virus will be discovered before it can establish itself on the system. As awareness of Clop Ransomware has spread, the hacking group and others have created variants with more sophisticated delivery methods, but they mostly deploy their attacks in the same way.

Stopping Clop

Currently, CLOP is focusing its efforts on infiltrating large organizations, but most ransomwares eventually break loose to attack regular web users — and already, Clop is popping up around the internet to do just that. Suffice to say that if an enormous corporation with a well-funded cybersecurity team struggles to fend off Clop once it has been downloaded and installed on their network, you as an average user stand little chance of retrieving your data unscathed without paying a steep ransom. Your best chance of surviving Clop Ransomware with your device intact is avoiding infection entirely.

The key to preventing a Clop Ransomware infection on your device is avoiding the malicious links that carry the virus. If you haven’t already, you should develop a good sense of cyber hygiene, which should help you identify suspicious messages and provide you with alternatives to clicking on potentially corrupt links.

Additionally, you should consider installing a secondary antivirus solution on every device you use. While Clop can disable the rudimentary security tools built into computers and other devices, it might not be able to evade detection from a more robust security suite, and early identification and quarantine could save your devices and data from destruction.

Clop Ransomware has risen to the top of the threat list for all web users in 2023, and it will likely remain a frightening menace online for years to come. By knowing more about Clop today and taking the right precautions to protect yourself and your data, you should be able to avoid Clop into the future.

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