A virus spreading around the world has infected Manhattan: a computer virus.
Kansas State University, along with the radio station 1350 KMAN and area businesses have had their computers crashed by a virus called CryptoLocker, a category of virus called ransomware.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Reubin Pierce, the director of operations for Manhattan Broadcasting Company, said.
The virus drops itself in computers via email. If users open an attachment from an unfamiliar email, it will lock them out of all of their documents on their hard drives.
At 1350 KMAN, the virus infected one of the machines Thursday, Pierce said. Fortunately, tech personnel were able to mitigate the circumstances with their file backup system.
The kicker about the virus is that it locks a computer’s hardware system and demands money to fix it, holding it for ransom.
Pierce said it was the most fascinating scam he’s ever seen because of the “sheer arrogance” it takes to attack somebody’s computer and then have them pay to fix it.
He said the best protection against it was to verify where the email came from.
“It shows up like an invoice or looks like something you’re supposed to open,” he said.
So call whatever company the email displays and verify it sent an attachment to you.
To protect hard drive files, Pierce said to have a backup system in place, either on an external hard drive or a flash drive, but those could be infected if they’re connected to the computer.
Pierce said he hasn’t seen that the virus has affected online storage websites including Dropbox.com, but that could happen eventually if the virus’s makers advance it.
To combat the virus, it’s also important to keep anti-virus software up-to-date, though CryptoLocker can make it past that.
Pierce said he has been told the cost from the makers to restore a crashed computer started at $100.
KMAN’s ransom was $300 and at this point the amount has increased to $700.
But paying the hackers encourages them, Pierce said, so the options to fix an infected computer are to either pay it, restore the computer by wiping it clean or accept the loss and move on, he said.
According to a report from K-State, all of the virus instances at the university appeared to come from “firstname.lastname@example.org” with subject lines like “Past Due Invoice.”
CryptoWare has been circulating for a couple weeks and Pierce said it could keep going.
“I think this is just the first. There’s going to be dozens and dozens of copycats on this,” he said.
People whose computers get infected can call local law enforcement as the hacking act is criminal.