With the click of a mouse, your treasured family photos, important documents, and sensitive medical records can be wiped off your computer.
"You can't be too paranoid. You need backups on your backups, and redundancy, you can't have enough of it, and many people don't," warns InfoStream's Alan Crowetz.
A new type of malware known as Cryptolocker targets personal and professional computers, and quickly scrambles or encrypts your data. The phony email appears to be from FedEx or UPS. Crowetz says the virus isn't hard to clean up, but fixing the damage is challenging. An IT firm can help recover your information, or you can pay the ransom fee to unlock your computer. But, there's no guarantee the ransom will pay off.
"The US government and other entities our there are trying to block people from the sites that allow you to pay the ransomware. They don't want to reward more people out there," Crowetz explains.
JEM Research Institute in West Palm Beach does cutting-edge research into complex diseases like Alzheimer's.
"The work is incredibly sensitive, and our work, our blood, what makes us is our data," says Dr. Eric Kramer.
The Institute almost became victim to the virus, but already had preventative measures in place.
"What we did early on is we realized that because our company depends on the data, we had to hire a professional company that would protect all this for us," Dr. Kramer says. "Back up your data, have a great company, and make certain that what you do can be protected in a disaster."
Not every company that has been infected has had a backup though, and for many, it can be a business-ending event.
"People will lose jobs. People will be out of work. I actually know of situations where that's been happening," Crowetz says.
Make sure you never click on links in emails unless you know who is sending it. If you want to add an extra layer of protection from this malware, click here to download a blocking tool.
Crowetz says the tool blocks Cryptoblocker and some other viruses, but is not an antivirus program. He adds that it's particularly helpful for homeowners who are highly vulnerable and never have backups.