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CINCINNATI (Paula Toti) -- Almost a hundred people were arrested worldwide this week for a new type of cyber crime that we've learned has hit several tri-state computers.
Basically the contents of your computer are held hostage and you're asked to fork over money. Local 12's Paula Toti looked into what has been happening and says the experts say more than a thousand computer viruses are being created every day.
A Hyde Park woman in her 70's who took photos of Findlay Market was a recent victim. She told Local 12 how 95 percent of her precious photos were held hostage or destroyed by a new ransomware attack.
Jay Gates at Cincinnati PC Solutions says this latest attack normally asks you to send five hundred dollars if you pay in the first four days and then doubles to a thousand for up to 30 days. This goes on until they delete a key the hackers have controlled that can unlock your files. Gates worked with the woman in Hyde Park to un-encrypt files, saving some photos without paying the ransom.
The attacks appear random, especially with the ransom amount staying about the same whether the victim is a home computer or a big company's servers. Gates isn't the only I-T guy seeing this. Mike DeVan of Advanced PC Repair says it's one of the more common ways he is seeing computers infected these days. He says the ransomware can take many forms, but the idea is to grab money in a data hostage scare.
Jag's restaurant in West Chester knows that all too well. They've been hit with more than one virus this year that has had computers out of the building for repair. It has been a tough thing for the marketing department. Kelly Lowrey told Local 12's Paula Toti a co-worker had her computer stopped a few weeks ago by a cyber terrorist.
"She wasn't able to go any further on her computer without purchasing something. She immediately called our I-T guy," said Kelly.
DeVan was able to get things working again. He's done the same with the so called "FBI ransonware" attack. People have been told they have porn or illegal downloads and need to pay a citation to get their computer working again.
The arrest of suspected cyber terrorists this week involved asking for ransom money after getting control of the computer user's webcam. You might think of the image of leaving a bag of money for the hostage taker under a park bench. But actually in many of these cases the cyber crook is asking for money in bitcoins. Bitcoins are a type of internet currency that can basically be untraceable.
Gates watched one company pay the bitcoin ransom because they did not want to risk losing tens of thousands of files. The company did get its data back. Devan says he never agrees with paying the money. Both DeVan and Gates agree if this happens to you turn off your computer and call in a pro.
Many of these attacks are coming from other countries where laws against these crimes can be nonexistent. You can get the ransomware by clicking on an email or ad. To protect yourself certainly run anti-virus software. If you see an email and aren't sure about it, hover over the address bar to see if it's someone you know. With an ad instead of clicking on the ad, go to that item's website directly. Do the same thing with Google searches. Hover over the address bar and consider going to the site directly. Finally back up everything regularly. It's strongly suggested you back up with an off-site service. Some are even free.
Paula Toti says, "Backing up helped Local 12. We were hit with ransomware last week. By backing up we only lost hours worth of information instead of days or months."
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