Lynchburg, VA - A new urgent warning for computer users; a vicious virus is wreaking havoc among computers across our country.
It's called the crypto locker. Its effects can cripple your computer, and leave you out of a hefty sum of cash.
It's as simple as opening an email or visiting a contaminated website, and once it hits your software victims say the only thing to do, is pay up.
It's hard to miss the big red screen that popped up on a computer at ABC 13's sister station, ABC 33-40 in Birmingham, Alabama.
"That is what they're doing; they're holding you hostage until you pay a ransom" said Ron Thomas, the station's Director of Operations and Engineering.
He says is started with one company employee opening an email. Less than 24 hours later, every file her computer had access to, was under the control of the crypto-locker.
It's known as ransomware, unlike a standard malware virus, this one holds your computer hostage, until you pay up, giving specific instructions for the ransom.
"You buy this $300 Green Dot MoneyPak, you cannot use a credit card for it, it had to be cash or debit card. Once the claim the funds, they unlock your files. If those files had been lost, it could've affected 10 years' worth of work by several departments" said Thomas.
The virus is so new and elusive, many times, if the files are valuable, the only way to reclaim them is to pay the ransom.
Companies, like WSET are taking precautions.
"It will disguise itself as JPEG images, as PDF files, as Microsoft Office files" said Troy Viers, WSET's IT Specialist.
Vires installed data to make sure Crypto-Locker cannot install on any company computer.
The biggest defense he says though is common sense, "If you get an email from somebody you do not know, especially if it's got attachments, don't open anything with it, just delete the email" Viers said.
This virus isn't only targeting corporate computers; this can attack your personal PC as well. Be mindful of the files you download and the emails you open, they can cost you a whole lot more than you may think.