Cybersecurity experts are warning businesses to protect themselves against a virus that holds their computer files ransom.
Alpharetta dentist Darrell Morton told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik someone in his office opened an email the person thought was from a former contact last week, and the virus immediately took hold.
"We knew something happened almost in seconds," Morton told Petchenik. "The computer that the virus attacked first just immediately started to slow down."
Morton said he then noticed a popup message saying if he wanted to retrieve the now-encrypted files, he'd have to pay up.
"It's paid in something called Bitcoin," he said.
Morton said luckily, all of his practice’s patient records are stored on an off-site cloud so personal information was not compromised. Morton said he didn’t pay the ransom and instead had his computer vendors fix the problem.
“It’s frustrating,” he said.
Cybersecurity consultant Tony UcedeVelez, who runs VerSprite, a firm that specializes in helping medical practices secure their data, told Channel 2 Action News the virus, called Locky, is a new strain of a ransomware application.
“A lot of businesses have been hit by this in recent months, and the ransom can be anywhere from $50,000 to even $200,000,” UcedeVelez said. “The attackers know who they’re targeting.”
UcedeVelez said anti-virus software does little to stop the virus once it infects a server.
“Validate and make sure the email you're receiving is expected based upon your line of work, the information you’re expecting to receive. Just do a simple gut check,” he said.
UcedeVelez also recommends not using your computer in “administrator mode,” because doing that allows the virus to make changes to your system that only an administrator can. He also said it's important to back up important data so that if an attack occurs, you can easily retrieve files from another source.
Alpharetta police told Petchenik they are investigating the attack and believe it came from overseas.
“It appears to be random,” said Alpharetta Department of Public Safety spokesman George Gordon. “We don’t have any evidence to say it wasn’t random.”
Cox Media Group