LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It's the cyber crime that has affected thousands across the nation, and experts warn you could be next, but there is a way to prevent ransomware.
According to local experts, the number of businesses in East Texas that have been affected by computer viruses is on the rise.
"This area, for whatever reason, has had four maybe even five which is pretty unusual for this area," said Michael Osborne, the CMS Regional manager for Lufkin.
We spoke with security experts who explained not only are computers at risk in the area, but the number of national cases is increasing as well.
"There have been 120 varieties seen out in the wild up at least 50 times since 2013," said CMS senior applications developer, Doug Preston. "If 2016 continues like it is, this will be the first year ransomware becomes a billion-dollar loss annually."
Experts say it can begin like a normal email, but once they have hold of your information it's difficult to get it back.
"You'll know when a pop up comes up on your screen that says you have had all your files encrypted, and you can't access them, and you'll have to pay," Preston said.
This is especially dangerous for businesses with mass amounts of personal data like medical records. For them, it could cost thousands.
"They have in their possession what is very liable information. Those records are worth a lot of money, and if exploited, government agents will come in and fine," Osborne said.
The two experts encouraged businesses big or small to take the needed steps to protect their files and this starts with being aware of what is on your computer.
"It's important to be aware that this is a threat and be skeptical of any emails you weren't expecting," Preston said.
Keeping all anti-virus and scanning up to date and running regularly can also prevent possible attacks.