PONTE VEDRA, Fla. - Do you have security software on your computer? If you don't have something solid, you are at risk of losing every bit of information - as well as control of your machine.
It's called "ransomware," and hackers use it to freeze your computer and scare you into paying big bucks to retrieve your files and passwords. It happened to one woman in Ponte Vedra. and she's trying to warn others.
"All of a sudden I get this warning pop-up. And I'm starting to read it and it looks like a congressional type of warning, that I have been violating and looking at porn sites," said Mary Lupardus.
She knew she wasn't guilty of what they were accusing and realized almost instantly it was a scam.
"My daughter was out of town. She came home maybe 10 or 15 minutes after I got this. I said look at this and she says mom that's a virus," she said.
Even though she did the right thing by turning off the computer and removing the battery, the next time she attempted to turn on the laptop, she got a blank screen and no way to get to the internet, her files or emails.
"I have not been able to get on my computer and I'm on online classes and I'm required to be there. I just made the dean's list for Spring 2013. This is going to affect my grade, my attendance, and I don't know what to do," Lupardus said.
Professional help is the only way you can regain control of the computer and get rid of the complicated virus. What you should never do is pay the ransom. In Lupardus' case., they wanted thousands. She doesn't have it.
"No, I have been out on a work comp issue since January 24, 2011, so my budget has been so tight. Month to Month its a struggle and this month. And now with this, the hacker is requiring payments to the tune of 400 hundred dollars. I don't have that, but I need my computer," she said.
Since Luparduscan't afford to get the laptop fixed, she's having to borrow friends' computers when she can. And she says that is really effecting her school work.
According to the computer security firm McAfee. Hackers can make $50,000 to $60,000 a day just by hitting people in a couple countries. The best defense: really good antivirus software.
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