Hackers kidnap family's photos

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A Pittsboro family says hackers kidnapped their photos stored on a computer and demanded ransom. (WTVD)

Having your computer hacked by someone is something we all try to avoid, but what if computer hackers took more than your ability to use your computer?

"Someone got in and took something of ours and now they want ransom for it," Janet Schultz said. "It's like really?"

Janet Schultz computer was hacked. Personal pictures that were stored on her computer are now encrypted and the hackers want her to pay them to get them back.

"So invaded, it's like someone robbed us," Schultz said.

Schultz was on her computer looking at her photo gallery when she noticed all the pictures weren't there. Instead the generic picture of a mountain background appeared and when she clicked on the pictures to view them individually, they brought her to a website saying:

"Your file has been encrypted to get the key to decrypt your files; you have to pay 700 US dollars. If payment is not made by the 15th of this month the cost of decrypting files will increase two times."

The hackers used software called Crypowall 3.0, malicious software that encrypts your files. The hackers say the only way for Schultz to decrypt the photos is with a code only they have.

The hackers want Schultz to pay with Bitcoins, an online currency that allows people to transfer money easily from one place to another, but Schultz doesn't want to give in.

"We would not pay someone blackmail who stole from us," Schultz said. "I mean technically they kidnaped our pictures."

Instead Schultz got help from a computer expert, but he was unable to decrypt the photos. Schultz contacted the FBI and local law enforcement; they too were also not able to help.

Schultz isn't the only victim in this hacking scam. A family in Florida also had their photos encrypted.

Two police stations in the Chicago and Nashville area were also victims of this same scam. Autopsy photos were encrypted and both police stations decided to pay the ransom to get the pictures back.

Luckily Schultz has back-ups of most of the photos taken, but she still wouldn't want anyone else have to deal this problem.

"I want them stopped... that's it," Schultz said. "I don't want them to pay a fine; I just want them to stop bothering people."

Here are some steps you can take to make sure this doesn't happen to you. Watch out for fake emails that appear to be legit. They could infect your computer. Also back-up your files on a CD or external hard drive. Lastly, keep your security protection software up to date. Experts warns even if you pay the ransom, that doesn't necessarily means the hackers will release your photos.
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