ASHEBORO, N.C. -- The Randolph County Sheriff's Office is warning the public about a virus that could wind up costing computer users a lot of money.
A Randolph County company, which wants to remain unnamed, was targeted by hackers last week. The company's computer system was hit with ransomware.
Ransomware is a type of virus that locks users out of their own word documents, spreadsheets, photos, and other files. The only way to get access to those files again is to pay the hackers money.
They literally hold your computer hostage, until you do so.
In the case of the Randolph County company, it paid hackers $500 to regain access to its computer systems.
Computer experts say viruses, like this, are becoming more common.
"[The viruses have] become more and more virulent, more and more destructive," said Charles Hanner, owner of Hanner Computer Services. "And, it seems like the people who have created these things are becoming more and more creative, and they’re finding ways, in this bad economy, to make money for themselves."
Hanner says a majority of the repairs he does at his shop involve some sort of virus or malware.
To prevent the hackers from getting your money or wiping out your data, he recommends purchasing some form of external hard drive to backup your information.
He says it's best to have more than one external place to safe your files. You should also backup frequently and be sure to disconnect the external hard drive, when it's not in use.
Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do if you get ransomware and haven't saved your files. In most cases, you'll either have to pay the ransom, or risk losing any files you haven't saved elsewhere.
Experts say, the most important thing to remember, is to never click on a link or download a file, if you aren't completely sure who is behind it.
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