CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A sophisticated computer virus known as Crypto Locker is targeting businesses in Charlotte.
It locks important computer files then demands money to release them.
"These people are out to get money. They developed this program to make it so there is only one way to get your files back which is to pay $300 to $500," said Detective C.J. DeCarlo with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Cyber Crimes.
Since September, the creators of this virus have made $30 million from businesses that have paid to re-gain access to their own files.
"It was actually an email that looked like it was coming from our phone system because our system sends voice mail messages as an attachment," said victim Paul Goodson.
As soon as the email was opened, every single document here at Goodson's law firm was locked up.
Crypto Locker targets commonly used files like Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets. Goodson said when his IT department couldn't get rid of the virus, he tried to pay the $300 ransom, but it was too late.
"The virus also warned if you tried to tamper or decrypt anything, it was going to be permanently locked and you could never open it," Goodson said.
Cyber detectives tracked the virus to Poland and Russia, but that's where the digital trail disappeared. As for the $30 million, DeCarlo said, "Basically this money is going to fund to make this a stronger program to make more money."
Goodson tells Channel 9 while no confidential information was stolen, he's lost access to thousands of legal documents.
Channel 9 asked detectives whether paying the ransom works. While they don't recommend doing that and said there have been at least 30 cases where the victim paid the fine and the hackers released the files.
Detectives recommend the following steps to protect your computer:
- Back up files
- If the computer becomes infected, turn it off and disconnect it from the network
- Change passwords
- Call police
- Do not pay the ransom