It’s a new computer virus that’s spreading internationally and it could wipe out your computer files.
Now computer repair experts are warning you to watch what you click, before it’s too late.
Beth Fuller came into Computer Handyman in Greenville Wednesday, to pick up her lap top. She had clicked on a link in an email that she thought she recognized but said she didn’t look hard enough.
“I saw a wedding invitation and I knew someone getting married shortly and I didn’t check the return email address,” said Fuller.
A few clicks later and Fuller downloaded ransom ware. The virus claims that it’s holding on to your important documents and files until you pay them. Experts tell us most viruses like this are scams. Fuller was able to bring the computer to Danny Brown at Computer Handyman and get it fixed.
A new virus claims the same thing, but you actually have to pay to retrieve access to your files Brown tells us.
“When we do have to tell people their data is gone it’s usually disbelief. There’s got to be a way to get it back and in this specific case there’s not,” he said.
Brown said this virus encrypts all of your documents, pictures and most things people would be concerned about with a 2048 bit algorithm. It can be virtually impossible to crack unless you have the decryption key. The people who wrote the virus are the only ones who have access to this key.
Typically Brown said you’ll need to dish out a few hundred dollars ($100-$300) in anywhere from 48-100 hours.
In the past, paying the crooks has helped to retrieve files. Brown says about 3% of people infected, have paid. That percentage alone is still a huge profit for the scammers.
Brown said the virus usually comes as an attachment in an email. He’s seen the attachments in emails supposedly from Fed Ex and UPS.
With the holiday season approaching, Fuller said she will be doing a lot of holiday shopping and this is now something she will need to watch out for.
Brown said the ransom ware may also be found on a website you are visiting.
Brown said it may install in the background of your computer, it may be completely unnoticeable and download within a few seconds.
To avoid the ransom ware Brown suggests backing up all of your files on a hard drive and then unplugging it from your computer. This backup will assure your files are safe as long as they’re not attached to your computer.
If you’re computer is attached to a network like one at a business, school or your home, you could infect the entire network.
It’s also important not to run any anti virus software after you’ve been infected. That will take away your option of paying the scammers to get your files back.
You can report any scam or virus to your local law enforcement agency but if the person creating the virus isn’t local, you can contact the FBI here.