SWANSEA (CBS)- A sophisticated computer virus attacked a New England police department and demanded they pay a ransom to get their files back. The Swansea Police Department confirms that earlier this month, they were forced to pay $750 to hackers through an untraceable online currency.
The virus is called CryptoLocker ransomware and infects a computer system when a malicious email attachment is opened. The virus encrypts files on the computer and unless you pay for the decryption key, the files are lost forever. Catching the hackers is extremely difficult for law enforcement.
Computer expert Tan Nguyen has seen about 10 cases of the virus in his Woburn shop Alfa Computers. His clients have included private citizens, lawyers and even high tech developers.
"This virus, or any virus, does not discriminate against any person or organization at all," said Nguyen. "When they encrypt data like that people are really held hostage."
The FBI's Cyber Crimes division is investigating many cases like this and asks victims to report similar attacks at www.ic3.gov. They advise against paying any ransoms and say you should consult a computer expert for help recovering lost data.
Nguyen says data recovery can cost several thousand dollars more than protecting your computer system with a firewall and anti-virus software.
"Creating viruses started out as a game for kids with technical minds. They did it for the bragging rights with their friends but eventually that turned into a profit making business for some people," said Nguyen.
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