Ransomware virus holds files hostage

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- A global computer virus threatens to wipe family photos, music, and irreplaceable files, unless you pay up. Unfortunately it's hard to spot, often hidden in emails or simple updates.

"It throws up a screen and it says your machine has been locked and you need to pay us $300, 300 Euros or an equivalent amount of currency to unlocke your machine,” said David Seidl, Senior Director of Campus Technology Services, University of Notre Dame.

It's hard to prevent getting the virus because it is often hidden in emails or simple updates.

"It's very scary because it will show you three days worth of time or something like that and start counting down,” said Seidl. “And if you've not paid them by then they actually delete the key that unlocks your data and it's gone forever."

The owner of NU 2 U PC, a computer shop on Ironwood Road, says he's already getting calls from worried customers.

"They just change it a little bit and the antivirus programs just can't block them, so just by the evolution of it- more and more people are going to have it,” said Chuq Jackles, owner, NU 2 U PC computer shop.

The most important question is should you pay? Interestingly, ABC57 got two different answers.

"Never pay. That would be just like giving the crook the keys to your house,” said Jackles.

"If I had Cryptolocker and it was my corporate data and I had not backed up anything, I think that's the only way you can go,” said Seidl. “You have to pay if you haven't done any of the other smart things you could do like keep your backup offline.”

That's why everyone should go ahead and spend money on an external hard drive or a cloud system.

"As long as you got a good back-up this doesn't matter,” said Seidl. “And if you look at the $300 as an investment instead of spending it with the bad guys, it's not a bad way to go."

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