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Expert: Home computers 'just as much at risk' of cyberattack

Posted June 27

— For the second time in two months, a large computer virus is working its way around the world and home computers are not immune.

Thieves on the internet don’t take a day off.

“It is a constant thing,” said Tim Richter with RCOR Technologies, which works to protect computer systems.

The latest attack was making its way around the world Tuesday, starting in Russia and Ukraine and moving through Europe and infecting companies in the United States as well.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck, with facilities in the Triangle, confirmed online their systems were among those compromised.

“They are after ways of making money. They are after ways of disrupting things,” Richter said.

The latest virus is called ransomware. It infects a computer and holds data on the machine hostage. Victims must pay hundreds of dollars, often in the online currency bitcoin, to regain access to their own information.

A similar attack in May paralyzed some hospitals, government offices and multinational corporations, but ransomware doesn’t just affect big companies. Home computers can be targeted and infected as well.

“They are just as much at risk,” Richter said.

Richter said people should make sure Windows and all anti-virus programs are up to date, use complicated passwords and make backups to files to protect themselves from being targeted.

People are also advised against clicking on suspicious emails or web links, which could be a trap.

“The end user, the person with the mouse in their hand, is the last line of defense,” Richter said.

Experts said paying the ransom is not a guarantee that data will be returned.

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