Computer virus takes your files, documents and photos hostage

Bernie Stabb is on his computer all day long at Syracuse Tile and Marble. He is constantly communicating with clients and suppliers but cautious of potential computer viruses or scams. As careful as he was, the cryptolocker virus still managed to get in

"I received an e-mail with a zip file attachment from one of our normal vendors, thinking it was an invoice. As soon as you turn off your computer and start back up, cryptolocker comes up," said Stabb.

Every file on Stabb's hard drive was locked and the only way to open them was to pay $400 to the thieves who built the virus.

"It doesn't stop at your main computer. if you are on a network system, it can travel throughout - kind of like cancer," said Stabb.

Dart Computer Solutions in Mattydale and Fairmount started seeing a few customers with cryptolocker viruses a few months ago but the pace is picking up.

"When it does get into your computer it basically crypts all the files. All your pictures, documents, music," said Behm. "Now we're seeing it almost every day so it is spreading like wildfire."

Luke Behm says the virus is often masked to look like a PDF attachment or a file that needs to be opened. As of now, technicians can remove the virus but can not un-encrypt the locked files and pictures. Behm says that even if someone chooses to pay for access to their files, they should still make sure the virus is removed so the thieves don't come back

"Hey we got you once, lets wait a month, come out of hibernation and get you again and see if you will pay again," said Behm.

At Syracuse Tile and Marble, the company decided not to negotiate with criminals. Instead they meticulously went back to their paper files and rebuilt everything and installed new hard drives

"We just brought the paper back and went to town on the keyboard," said Stabb.

Security companies are hopeful they will find a way to unlock encrypted files but as of right now, Dart Computer Solutions and others are still working on a way to access them. Experts say people should be extra cautious with attached files and be suspicious of strange e-mails from address you do not know.