New Scam Hijacks Your Computer Files For Ransom

Monday, February 22nd 2016, 10:32 pm
By: News 9

The FBI said a popular online scam continues to grow. Hackers shut down your computer and then force you to pay a ransom to get control back. The international crime is targeting everyone - even law enforcement. 

Leah Miller couldn't believe it when her entire computer froze.

"Whoever hacked my computer had full access," Miller said.

Hackers locked all her files. She then received a pop-up ransom note, one demanding payment to free her computer. It even came with a countdown clock.

"It said 'pay this ransom before this countdown ends or you're going to lose all these files forever,'" she said.

The pop-up Miller received is called crypto locker but the scam is global and the ransom notes come in different forms. Cyber security expert Scott Schober says the ransom demands range from $200 to $1,000. And the criminals often want to be paid in the untraceable online currency - bitcoin.

"It's very hard to catch the hackers," Schober said.

It's not just personal computers - businesses, school districts, even police departments have been hit with the uncrackable code.

Miller refused to pay the $800 ransom - and lost all of her files. A technician wiped her computer clean so she could start over.

"I lost a lot of data and a sense of security," she said.

She's taken measures to protect herself - experts say it's important to update anti-virus software and back up all your data. But she worries the hackers could return.

"It happened out of nowhere, and I don't know if and when it will happen again," she said.

The Cyber Threat Alliance said more than $325 million in computer ransom demands has been paid out globally.