OMAHA(KPTM)- If you got an email, giving you a link to track a package, would you automatically click on it? Over the past three months, thousands from around the world have done just that, only to find all the files on their computer are encrypted and they have 72 hours to pay a fee, or lose everything on their P.C.'s.
Not even computer professionals are immune from a new virus. Back in October, Thor Schrock of Schrock Innovations says the weekend crew at one of his repair locations let the anti-virus software run out and that's when Cryptolocker pounced.
"Over a weekend the Norton protection expired and the weekend crew said 'oh don't worry about it, we'll renew it on Monday, we can't be bothered with it. Then we got an email that sounded like it was from a customer and it said 'hey guys, I received this invoice from you. I was confused, I thought I paid this, can you check it out?" said Schrock, adding "They thought it was a legitimate customer email and opened up the attachment and hello Cryptolocker."
Even law enforcement are finding themselves susceptible. Last month, Cryptolocker attacked a New England police department and demanded they pay a ransom to get their files back. The Swansea Police Department confirms that earlier this month, they were forced to pay $750 to hackers using bitcoin, a currency designed to be untraceable.
Cryptolocker holds files for ransom by encrypting them and destroying the key if you don't hand over money within a certain amount of time - typically 72 hours. The ransom amounts are typically in the hundreds of dollars.Schrock said fortunately for him, all of his and his clients files were backed up and the virus caused a minor inconvenience, but for others it has cost hundreds if not thousands to get their information back.
Schrock says if you think your computer has been infected, the best thing you can do is shut it down right away and bring it in to a repair shop like Schrock Innovations. He adds the best way to protect your computer to begin with is to invest in a product like Norton 360 and keep it current. He also recommends downloading "Secure Updater," which keeps third party programs like Flash and Java, which can fall victim to these hackers, updated at all times.
For more information on secure updater:
Cryptolocker is also seeing an influx of copycats. Research by WatchGuard Technologies lists a rise in ransomware as one of eight expected tech challenges for 2014.