Wednesday, April 23 2014, 09:23 AM MDT
Virus Encrypts Computer Files, Demands Ransom
(KUTV) Darren Poulsen owns Prosecutive Landscaping in Murray. He says he's had computer viruses before but nothing like the one that hit his office a few weeks ago. The virus locked every single file on his office's computers.
"For us to not be able to access those files, that's years of our data and experience," he said.
Darren says a graphic appeared on his screen that read, "Your personal files are encrypted." To decrypt the files, Darren was told he needed a private key. To get that private key, Darren needed to pay $300. And there was a clock counting down from 72 hours, after which time the encryption key will expire, the graphic stated.
"Straight up, its ransom," he said. "You feel really taken advantage of."
Panicked and angry because without access to his files, his company's productivity was stalled, Darren took his computer to P.C. Laptops. P.C. Laptops was only able to recover a few of his files, and he needs the rest to run his business so he sent the $300 ransom. As promised, he says the extortionist did give him the key to unlock his files.
P.C. Laptops owner Dan Young tells Get Gephardt that he has become familiar with this virus in recent weeks as customers have been pouring into his stores with infected machines in hand.
"Sometimes we can recover some of the data, but sometimes not and sometimes the only alternative, sadly is to pay the ransom," Young said.
Young says the so-called Crypto-locker virus is different than other viruses because simply deleting the virus won't fix the problem.
"It actually takes your files and encrypts them and scrambles them into this banking level security code so that you simply can't unlock these files."
Young says that virtually all codes can be cracked with enough time and money, but it is not easy and will likely cost way more than the few hundred dollars the extortionist demands.
To protect yourself from this virus, Young recommends virus protection software, preferably a program that updates regularly to filter out the latest viruses. In lieu of this Crypto-locker virus, he has also been setting his customers up with a program that daily backs up an entire hard-drive to 'The Cloud.' That way if a machine does get infected, the computer's owner can essentially hit a reset button and restore their computer from a backup before the virus was downloaded.
By Matt Gephardt
Produced by Stephanie Clemens
Edited by Stephanie Campbell
Photography by Brian Morris and Randy Likness
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)