Clifford Parah shows Kyle Midura his locked up computer.
ALBURGH, Vt. -
Clifford Parah couldn't sell any hunting or fishing licenses to customers at the Alburgh Village Store Thursday after a malware bug locked his computer.
"I didn't know what it was," he said.
The virus took over the computer's camera, snapped a picture, and claimed if he didn't pay $300 it would create false posts alleging he's a pedophile. Vermont State Police and computer techs assured him the threat isn't real.
"I run a business here," said Parah. "They said it wasn't going to happen, but I don't know, the clock's ticking."
Eric Lightbody works in information technology at St. Michael's College and says the Mandiant U.S.A. Cyber Security virus is one of the most common he sees on campus.
"Generally it will show FBI logos or really kind of make it look as official as possible to really scare you into thinking the FBI is really on to you," he said.
Lightbody says the bug isn't complicated, but how do you get it off?
"That's the tricky part," he said. "You kind of have to know what you're doing."
Lightbody says the tech-savvy can pull it off, but otherwise it's best to seek the help of a professional.
The best way to beat the bug is to never get it.
"Generally, your best defense is to really keep your antivirus and malware software up to date, and don't click ads," Lightbody said.
Parah says he can't get back to business as usual until his computer gets scrubbed.
"I don't know where we go from here. I'll have to get it cleaned up and hope it doesn't happen again," he said.
Child pornography charges are felonies, so if the FBI truly suspected someone, they would arrest them, not lock their computer until a $300 fine is paid.
Industry experts say viruses can cost U.S. businesses more than $6 million a day, and more than $80 billion worldwide each year.
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