Modern hijacking - What’s your data worth?

October 24, 2013

Better Business Bureau serving Northeast California warns of a new computer virus that encrypts and holds personal computer files hostage.

The virus is called CryptoLocker and it does just what its name implies - it locks up a victim's computer files for ransom until they pay the demanded amount. This virus ransomware implements a time window of 100 hours allowing only a few days to pay the hackers.

The ransom amount has been as high as $300 and if the victim does not pay, the hackers lock up their data forever in its encrypted form - never to be accessed again.

Symantec, a computer security software company, reports that CryptoLocker infections have largely occurred in North America.

What makes CryptoLocker unique is that the hackers in charge actually release the data after the ransom is paid. However, this is subject to the hacker’s will.

The ransom payment is currently being accepted via a prepaid debit card.

CryptoLocker is primarily spreading through email attachments and links disguised to look like they are sent from legitimate email business accounts such as FedEx, UPS or Xerox.

Copycat viruses are possible in the growing category of virus ransomware.

Sensitive information including passwords stored on computer hard drives makes victims of this virus targets for identity theft fraud.

To protect yourself from ransomware viruses, your BBB recommends the following tips:

Don’t open an email or attachment from an unfamiliar source – Even if it appears to be from a friend or co-worker, unless you are expecting it or know what it contains.

Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software – Update them regularly.

Keep your browser and operating system updated regularly as well as your firewall.

Backup important files important files onto a removable hard drive and store it in a safe and different location, away from your computer.

Use a pop-up blocker - a lot of ransomware is delivered via pop-ups.

If you’ve fallen victim to a ransomware virus, like CryptoLocker, please contact your BBB as well as the Internet Complaint Center,

For more tips you can trust, visit or follow your Better Business Bureau serving Northeast California on Facebook and Twitter for the latest tips on staying secure.