Video: Computer Hackers On The Prowl

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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI)- Imagine having your computer system hacked. All of your files and data completely gone. It can be a nightmare.

Recently, the Oxford School District just finished living this nightmare for over a month now.

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This is often referred to as the dark side of the internet.

Hackers are getting creative in going after people and convincing them to click on fake links.

Hackers will send emails that look legitimate, but MSU professor Robert Crossler says don’t be fooled.

“Often times now one of the big issues people face is something called ransom Ware where they get these infections and they’re going to go in and lock up files that’ll completely encrypt them so a person can’t open them,” said Crossler.

Crossler said hackers are able to get into these systems because users click on links they shouldn’t have.

“It looks like something you might be really concerned about, it may look like it came from your boss, or someone in Human Resource, or someone from the help desk,” Crossler said.

But once the user clicks and opens the fake link, their system is instantly under attack.

Crossler said hackers will then demand money in order for the user to get their data back.

“So it’s basically them saying, hey I’ve got a key to all of your data for the right amount of money I’ll give you the key,” said Crossler.

“The articles I’ve read it’s not a lot , its two hundred to three hundred dollars,” said MSU professor, Dr. Merrill Warkentin.

Warkentin  said there are two ways users go about paying hackers.

“All of the payments are done with virtual cash, with either something like bit coins, it’s an online currency so it’s not in U.S. dollars and very hard to trace, or it’s done where they ask you to purchase a money order by going down to a Western Union and you can buy one that can’t be traced,” said Warkentin.

Crossler said once the user pays off the hacker, the hacker usually never comes back.

However, blocking a hacker can be a difficult thing to do.

“It’s a game of cat and mouse, they’re always looking for that next thing,” said Crossler.  “So once one solution comes out, they say OK, we’ve blocked them here, we’ve updated this antivirus or we’ve patched this thing, they’re looking for the next vulnerability, the next thing.”

Crossler said running anti virus software and making sure all programs and software are patched, are two of the most important precautionary measures users can take.

Ultimately, experts say it comes down to the user making a wise decision on whether or not to click the link.

Crossler said hackers attack people at random.

Some hackers work alone, while others work in groups.

If your computer or network is hacked he said it’s best to go ahead and pay the money and report the incident.

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