PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - With past viruses, often called ransomware, a trip to your local computer store and $100 got you back online with your files intact.
But the latest version called a Cryptolocker can permanently destroy every file, picture and email on your personal computer running Microsoft Windows.
The owner of Pinellas Computers Ryan Malize says it's the nastiest virus he's seen. The Cryptolocker not only hijacks your computer and its files, it threatens to destroy them if the user doesn't come up with $300.
But that's not what makes this virus a killer.
It locks down your computer with a random password only the hacker knows. Experts can repair your computer, but may not be able to recover files that are encrypted.
And there are no guarantees that paying the $300 ransom will lead to the restoration of your documents, pictures and anything else in your user folder including emails.
The virus hits your computer through links contained in emails and rogue websites. Here is how you can protect yourself:
1) Install or update antivirus software
2) Schedule backups so if a virus does hit you don't lose everything.
3) Put children and others on limited user or guest accounts, which helps to lock down your computer.
One of the best precautions you can take involves adjusting your PC's security settings on your browser to at least medium, if not high. (Check the “tool” or “options” menus for these settings.)
Computerworld.com has an extensive help section on how to avoid getting infected and what to do if you are: http://ch7ne.ws/HBB4JT