New virus holds your computer hostage for ransom

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A new virus that holds your computer hostage has made its way to the Lowcountry.

The virus is called Cryptolocker.

It encrypts your files and forces you to pay up or lose them forever.

Last month, a computer at the Charleston Atlantic Presbyterian office on Ashley River Road was infected.

An employee told Charleston Police she had been locked out of her computer, her files encrypted and that she would have to pay $300 to get the files back.

"This is the real McCoy," said Charleston computer expert Jamie Mellis. "It's targeting businesses. It also goes after things like music files and pictures as well. They're all looking for the same thing, pay them one hundred or three hundred dollars."

If your computer has the virus, Cryptolocker gives you specific instructions.

A message says there's a private key on a secret server on the Internet that will allow you to restore your files.

But first, you must pay $300, using an untraceable credit card, such as a green dot card.

There will be a deadline to do so, possibly 72 hours. Otherwise your files will be destroyed.

But Mellis says beware, paying the ransom may not get your files back.

So what can you do to avoid becoming a victim?

Mellis says backup the files on your computers.

"It seems like we have so many people that come through the door on a daily basis with absolutely no backups and unfortunately in many cases there's nothing we can do to recover it."

According to a police report, the Charleston Atlantic Presbyterian did not pay the $300 ransom. We reached out to officials there to find out if they were able to recover their files, but our calls were not returned.

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