Infecting and Collecting: Hackers on the Rise

PHILADELPHIA -- Digital stick-up artists are targeting innocent people for ransom by holding their private computer information hostage.

Tech expert Anthony Mongeluzo says just when you think you have it solved; the hackers or the criminals essentially change the game of viruses.

Mongeluzo has helped over a dozen clients in one week who were infected, and in some cases, re-infected by different versions of Cryptolocker.

"Now the 3.0 version has already been documented costing U.S. people almost 18million dollars and we're only halfway thru the year," according to Mongeluzo.

The hackers obtain your personal data by disguising themselves as someone you know. However, the virus not only attacks you it also goes after everyone on your contact list.

"Once your computer gets hit, your computer and your email will transmit this as you with a clever personal message such as 'Hey Anthony, its Joyce can you open this file take a look tell me what you think. Thanks Joyce Evans.' Process repeats and repeats and repeats," according to Mongeluzo.

And once the hacker successfully gains access to your information, the scary ransom note, or countdown clock appears on your screen prompting you to give money.

Mongeluzo says when you encrypt the file; you have the key to unlock it.

"In this case, the hackers remotely encrypt you, and they go, hey you want the key? Its right here - give me a thousand bucks, "he told FOX 29's Joyce Evans.

In most cases, if you refuse to give the hackers your coins all of your data, from important records to irreplaceable photos, will be lost unless you have all or most of your data backed up.

"But again, if you're a large company it could take 7 or 8 hours to recover your backup and you can 50 employees not working so at that point, is it cheaper just to pay them $1,000," Mongeluzo said.

Oak Mortgage Company decided that they weren't going to be another victim.

"It did infect a few other people in our office but we caught it quickly enough that it didn't spread through the whole company," Joanna Graf said.

They were able to escape the wrath of Cryptolocker, by shutting down everyone connected to that drive, but they had to beat the ransom clock to ensure protection over tons of client information.

"We can't lose that data. That's data we need to function every day, it would take too recreate something like that." Graf said.

Tech support agent Ryan Frazier says Oak Mortgage had an easy fix, because they already had a good protection in place before their system was hacked.

"We backup the backup - now we have cyber insurance," Graf said. "You never know - never know, it could still be lying dormant in your computer somewhere."

The best way you can combat these hackers is by keeping your information saved throughout multiple devices.

Due to fake IP addresses, and clever network maneuvering, attempting to track down the hackers would be a waste of time. Mongeluzo says that they can be anywhere in the world, infecting, and collecting.