New virus can hold your personal info hostage

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PHOENIX -- There's nothing better than turning on your computer and it just fires right up.

But there's a new computer virus out there that can shut down your computer and hold all of your personal information hostage until you pay a ransom.

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That's why the virus is called ransom-ware.

The computer worm known as Conficker was expected to be one of the worst viruses to hit in years, but now Ken Colburn of Data Doctors says there's a new computer threat out there that's even more menacing.

"Once it's in, it can wreak all kinds of havoc," he said.

Colburn said ransom-ware is much more dangerous than Conficker because it's so much easier to get.

"Conficker was very easy to avoid," Colburn said. "This one is very easy to get fooled by, which is why it's so much more dangerous."

Ransom-ware basically holds your information hostage until you agree to pay to unlock your documents.

"It scrambles all of your information so you can't access it and then holds you hostage by asking for a $50 ransom for the program that will unlock its information," Colburn said.

This same malicious software will try and fool you into buying a worthless anti-virus program.

"They pose as a program that will help you clean up a mess and all they are trying to do is get you to give them a credit card number or buy a piece of software that's completely useless," he said.

The most common way for it to sneak into your computer is by posing as fake YouTube video.

"The very common way to infect computers is to send out e-mails or connect through Facebook and say, 'Hey, there's this really salacious video about you online," Colburn said.

And once you click on the link your computer is infected.

To avoid ransom-ware, Colburn says, first, never add or update programs unless you're certain you know the source it came from.

"If you get a message from your computer saying you might be infected, first thing just be absolutely sure it's coming from the program you've installed to protect you," he said.

Second, keep all your computer's security programs up to date.

And, finally, if you do get infected, don't pay the "ransom."

"There are lots of places on the Internet that will tell you how to unlock files without paying these folks," Colburn said. "Rewarding them for their craftiness is not a good idea."

Colburn said the best thing to do is to be extra cautious every time you travel the cyberspace road.

"There's a chance something bad is going to happen every time you go online," Colburn said. "We seem to be much more aware of our surroundings when we're driving our car. We seem to be kind of asleep at the wheel when we're on the Internet."