When Royce Lewis got into work yesterday morning, the last thing he expected to find was a virtual ransom note.
"I came in, turned the computer on, and was met with a red screen that said your files have been encrypted," says Lewis, CEO of Capital Mortgage in Lubbock. "Then it tells me if I want my files unencrypted I have to pay them $300, and that I have 56 hours, 16 minutes and 12 seconds to pay the money, or the files will be permanently lost."
Lewis's computer had been infected by Cryptolocker. It's a virus that locks your files and then demands hundreds of dollars...or else the files will be permanently lost. It prompts you with payment instructions, citing three foreign money transfer websites and one domestic option, called Moneypak.
"This is just like somebody walking into my office with a gun and saying 'Give me $300,'" he says.
Lewis refused to pay the $300, after the FBI informed him it would probably be futile.
Michael Strong owns Blue Layer IT in Lubbock. He says the bug is so clever, there's no anti-virus software that can prevent it. However, only PCs can be infected - Apple owners are in the clear.
"Really the best defense is being a conscious consumer of the internet," Strong says. "Making sure you know, 'What am I opening, what am I taking in on my computer, what websites am I visiting,' since this website is new and creative and can bypass filters
Strong says the Cryptolocker bug has affected businesses and homes all across the country.
"My advice to businesses and home users alike is just to ensure that you have regular backups of your files, and that you keep them in a safe place."
Strong says the ransomware technology has existed for a few years, but that this particular form is the most effective he's seen at extortionism.