RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Consumer experts along with the FBI are warning about a new computer threat called CryptoLocker. The malicious programming allows cyber criminals to lock your computer files and make you pay if you want to gain access; we're talking pictures, videos, and important documents.
Eric Strickler, with PCRX Computers says once your computer is infected, you really don't have many options. "It is a very scary thing. The encryption is real and it is a real big threat, he says.
Most often, the threat is installed on your computer through a malicious email that contains an attachment. Once infected, crooks demand you get a pre-paid card and pay a hefty fee to recover your files. "The very odd thing about this is variant is that the people who have become infected, who did not have backups, have paid the 300 dollars, they just didn't have a choice. They actually got their files decrypted," he explains. Despite this, experts say you should never pay the ransom.
What makes the CryptoLocker really freighting is that you don't necessarily have to open an attachment or click a link. Strickler says people using an "auto preview" mode on their Outlook email attachments, could inadvertently activate the corrupt file, unleashing the attack. "A lot of my business revolves around what we called indiscriminate clickers. These are people who click everything, yes, yes, next, next, give it to me, okay, agree. I would encourage users to slow down and look at what you are click on," he says.
A professional can remove the virus, but not unlock the files. Then it becomes your decision -- pay the ransom, or live without everything that's locked. That's why computer experts recommend having multiple backups of your data. The best protection, never click links or open attachments in emails. If it looks suspicious delete it. Also, keep you antivirus updated. "Immediately you want to pull the plug on the computer, that is how you are going to protect your data from further damage," Strickler says.