BUSINESS THREAT: Trevor, Kimberley, Maritta and Alex Hutley and Abigail Christensen had their family-owned business targetted by an email virus.
BUSINESS THREAT: Trevor, Kimberley, Maritta and Alex Hutley and Abigail Christensen had their family-owned business targetted by an email virus. Sophie Lester

Hackers hold Darling Downs family business to ransom

THEY'RE often only the thing of cyber crime television shows, but one Warwick family is warning computer viruses are no joke.

Maritta and Trevor Hutley own Warwick VIP homes services and last Saturday fell victim to an encryption virus sent to them via email.

"It was an email that came into our business address and then just encrypted our whole computer so we can't use our files, our accounting and invoices are all gone," Mrs Hutley said.

"Within that it sends you to a place on the dark web to pay a ransom for a few hundred dollars and if you pay you can sometimes get the files back they give you a key to unlock the encryption.

"I know that's it happened to a few other businesses in town, about three years ago (another business) was hacked in exactly the same way.

"It's the first time it's happened for us it could be up to a month we're flying blind with what we've got because we can't access our clients details or any of our regular jobs."

Mrs Hutley said she had not paid the ransom, but hoped other people would be cautious.

"We have two computers and I had seen it and thought it looked a bit dodgy, only because we're a business and we get random emails coming in all the time," she said.

"There was no message in it just had an exe file that said photos.

"It's not just businesses that are being hit but private email addresses too.

"It could be a bit of trouble coming up to the end of financial year but we've taken our computer to John Wode at Warwick Computer Support and Repairs to see if he can retrieve anything for us."

Mr Wode said the sort of virus that encrypted the Hutley's files was increasingly common in Australia.

"Often the emails will seemingly be from Australia Post or the Australian Federal Police," he said.

"They steal the logos and everything so it looks legitimate but the actual address though will often be gmail or something like that.

"It's not opening the email itself that's the problem but when the attachment is opened."

Unlike viruses that annoy users with pop-up ads, Mr Wode said encryption viruses, particularly newer versions, were far more damaging as they can even affect hard drives and other computers on the same network.

He said senders were not able to see any data but ransoms were often paid in a digital currency, bitcoins, making it difficult to trace the source of the virus.

"People need to be vigilant and ensure they're not opening any suspicious emails," Mr Wode said.

"Sometimes it's worth paying the ransom and I can get a key for a couple of hundred dollars - it's expensive but often a better option than paying the ransom.

"I've had a good success rate with retrieving data from previous encryption viruses but this may take a while to get a key for."




Viruses can lock thousands of files in less than a minute.

If you receive a suspicious email, immediately delete the email and do not open any attachments

Use a software like Cryptoprevent to detect these viruses

Do not leave external hard drives or USBs plugged as these can also be encrypted

If a virus starts to work immediately turn off the power

How ‘abnormally’ hot it’s going to get today

How ‘abnormally’ hot it’s going to get today

Records are expected to shatter across the country over coming days

Bundaberg 'terror plot': Federal police swoop

Premium Content Bundaberg 'terror plot': Federal police swoop

Man allegedly sought firearms training as part of plot

The ‘unsuitable’ people being given gun licences

Premium Content The ‘unsuitable’ people being given gun licences

Even a murderer who shot their victim can obtain a gun licence