Starting Over

Starting over after a virus, by Cheap Recipe Blog

Last Friday, my worst blogging nightmare came true: My computer was hit by the Crypto Locker virus.

I was researching slide show software for a party I was planning for the next day. I left the room for two minutes, and came back to this:

Photo from

Photo from

I had another computer at home, so I immediately started searching on Google for information about this virus. As I was scrolling through the Google results, these words stuck out:

The Crypto Locker virus is said to be one of the worst viruses to ever infect Windows PCs

I nearly lost it at this point. I frantically called my tech-savvy cousin, my boyfriend, and another IT guy for help. I hurriedly tried to save some photo files to disk, but to no avail. The virus was taking over my files faster than I could back them up.

And then they were gone.

What I Lost

When all the damage was done, here’s what I lost:

  • 95% of my recipe stock photography library (That’s hundreds and hundreds of photos of food that I had taken over the past three years, that I had planned on eventually putting on my blog)
  • Photos from trips to Boston, Alaska, Washington, and a road trip down south
  • Precious photos of my friends, family, and moments that I wanted to remember
  • Random files: My resume, articles, blog posts, etc.

Just thinking about all the photos and files that I have lost makes me sick to my stomach.


Why Is Crypto Locker So Nasty?

It uses asymmetric encryption to encrypt files that have meaning to the user, particularly photos and text documents. Decrypting the files is virtually impossible. It’s like guessing someone else’s password. Removing the virus isn’t particularly hard. I just ran Malwarebytes, and that took care of it. But by the time the anti-virus software has run, the damage is done. For me, my photo files had quickly been encrypted and backup versions of my computer were gone.

The creators of the virus are out for one thing: money. I could pay their “ransom” to unlock my files (which is currently $2,000+), but there’s no guarantee that it would work. We’re dealing with criminals, after all. And ethically, there is no way I’m giving them my money. I’ve already given them all of my precious photos.

Here’s a recent article about the Crypto Locker virus. It looks like there is specific software available to prevent your computer from getting attacked. Prevention is the best medicine in this case.

I Was Lazy

I’m the first to admit, I was lazy and reckless by not backing my files up. Almost daily, I would tell myself, “You should back those files up!” – but I never made time to do it. If I would have done this, dealing with the virus wouldn’t have been a big deal.

But as much as I could beat myself up over this, the true damage is done by those who created the virus.

Here’s How You Can Help

I need your support more now than ever. I feel like I’ve taken five steps back with my blog. A week ago, I had more than 100 posts/photos ready to develop and go live. Now I have about five.

Here’s a few ways in which you can help me out:

  • Provide feedback: With virtually no stock photography and a blank slate, I am in an ideal position to implement new ideas on my blog. Namely, getting ideas and requests from you guys. So I want to hear from you. What kind of recipes do you want to see? Ultra-cheap recipes? Healthy recipes? Money-saving tips? Product reviews? Reader challenges? Please let me know.
  • Pin some recipes on Pinterest. It’s going to take me awhile to get back on my feet. One simple thing you could do to support me would be to pin some of my recipes on Pinterest. I’ve spent a lot of time developing the recipes that are already on my site. Hopefully these can carry me for awhile.
  • Connect on social media. While I begin working on rebuilding my recipe and stock photography database, I would love to be able to easily connect with you guys via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. It’s easier to send out a quick message on Facebook than to write an entire blog post.

I’m trying to see the silver lining and treat this as an attempt to make a fresh start. With your support and ideas, I think I can do just that.

What You Should Do To Protect Yourself

Viruses and malware are getting worse and more sophisticated. In a matter of seconds, most of my photo files were wiped out. Gone forever. And the same thing could happen to you.

While there’s really nothing you can do to stop a virus like this once your computer is hit, there is one thing you can do right now: Back up your files.

Don’t procrastinate like I did. Figure out how you want to back up your computer and then do it soon. Assume that you’re eventually going to get a computer virus. Just make sure to put up all your defenses before it happens.

Moving On

Nobody really talks about the emotional impact of a computer virus and subsequent data loss. I know that sounds a little bit dramatic. But the photos I lost were very precious to me, and they’re irreplaceable. They represent time, ideas, relationships, and memories.

All I can do is start over. God willing, new photos, new vacations, new recipes, and new memories will happen. And I’ll be there to photograph them.

My friends and family have been very supportive and understanding. And the fact that my dear friend Ellen delivered a box of delicious cupcakes didn’t hurt either.


I’m still processing everything, trying to figure out the best way to protect myself in the future, and giving you the extremely important reminder to back your files up. That’s all I have for now. Thanks for listening and thanks for your support.

17 Responses to “Starting Over”

  1. 1

    Emily aka The Three Bite Rule — November 6, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

    we all need this reminder! I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Why not a call to bloggers with a connective cheap ingredient? See what food bloggers do with your favorite (or least favorite!) cheap item. Or give folks a challenge for a meal under a certain dollar amount!

    • Haley replied: — November 6th, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

      Thank you, Emily! I love your idea. Something like a Dollar Store challenge sounds like a lot of fun! Like, make a meal out of ingredients from a dollar store.

  2. 2

    Ellen — November 6, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

    So brave to be sharing your story and I love how you have turned it all around to something new and exciting! 🙂

    • Haley replied: — November 6th, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

      Thanks for your unwavering support!

  3. 3

    Kathy — November 6, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

    Haley, I’m so sorry this happened! I can’t imagine! Pictures hold such a strong place in our hearts.

  4. 4

    Jackie — November 6, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

    Haley- I’m always looking for recipes from pantry staples. I don’t like going to the store every day! Keep it up!

    • Haley replied: — November 6th, 2013 @ 10:56 pm

      Me neither. I’ll keep this in mind. Thanks Jackie 🙂

  5. 5

    Alicia C. — November 7, 2013 @ 1:07 am

    Thanks for the reminder, Haley. I backed up my pictures as a result. I’m so sorry that you lost so much. I would be devastated. I know my sister was crushed when she lost one roll of film (years ago when film was still a thing). I can’t imagine losing that many pictures, visual memories and work.

  6. 6

    Vivian — November 7, 2013 @ 2:11 am

    Sometimes, as they say, one door closes and another one opens. Recreate the memories, photos etc.even better this time……and then move on to more exciting things. One idea, which I would love to see: some no-grain recipes once in a while. Many of us are either GF or totally non-grain oriented. Thanks and good luck in the cyberworld…it is ian increasingly a scary place.

    • Haley replied: — November 8th, 2013 @ 1:54 am

      Thanks for the idea about gluten free recipes. I’m going to put that on my radar. Do you have any specific recipes in mind? Main courses, appetizers, snacks, desserts…? Thanks 🙂

  7. 7

    Karen Harris — November 7, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

    Oh my gosh, how devastating Haley! I am so sorry this happened to you. I love your blog just like it is. Love your cheap recipes, your photography and writing. I hope you get back on your feet soon.

    • Haley replied: — November 8th, 2013 @ 1:52 am

      You’re so sweet! Thank you, Karen 🙂

  8. 8

    Chef Connie — November 7, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

    I back up at least once a week or if I am busy and have added lots of pictures, every other day. I also put my pictures on Picassa so they are in the cloud as well as on my hard drive.
    Good luck and I will pin for you.

    • Haley replied: — November 8th, 2013 @ 1:53 am

      Thank you, Connie! I’m going to follow suit and start backing up regularly.

  9. 9

    Alyssa (Everyday Maven) — November 9, 2013 @ 2:40 am

    Oh my gosh Haley – that is HORRIBLE!!!!! I am so sorry. I just got a new laptop and a 1TB external harddrive and i will be setting up a backup tonight. So sorry!!!

  10. 10

    Kathryn — November 9, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss! It was a good reminder though, and I’m in the process of backing up all of my pictures now!

  11. 11

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