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Held hostage by hackers - latest computer virus infecting the valley

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ-TV) - Held hostage by hackers - local businesses, even some residents, are under attack, but you can protect your home or business from ransomware.

A manager of a business in our area says one of his employees clicked a link in an email this week, that spread a virus through the entire network--holding every machine and everything on network for ransom. The price - $27,000.

Brian Burkett, CEO Insight Technologies: "It's a moment of panic, definitely."

If you thought viruses were bad, cyber security expert Brian Burkett says this is worse. Businesses are held at ransom by their owns computers.

Burkett: "Don't pay the ransom. I know that sounds kind of brazen, but in about 50 percent of the cases they don't get their files back after they've paid the fee."

Hackers are asking businesses to pay the fee in Bitcoins, an untraceable internet currency. So how do you avoid this? Read emails closely and don't click suspicious links.

Burkett: "First thing is misspellings. They're not real good with their English. And they come out and they find misspellings or your name is misspelled. The other is the return email address, the reply email address. They have what looks like a friend of yours or a real name, but when you look at the email address its obviously not them."

Although businesses are the main targets, it can happen to personal computers too. If it happens to you, you'll know it - your computer will freeze and you'll get a ransom note on screen. Report it to police, and call an IT specialist who can try and unlock the files for you.

The local business, which wanted to remain anonymous, says they reported the incident to the FBI. The attorney general's cyber security branch didn't return calls for comment.

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