THE INFAMOUS CryptoLocker computer virus is back - and it's more devastating than before.
Rockhampton computer guru Bruce Kerr says it has already stung dozens of Central Queensland users, and he fears that many more will fall victim to its authentic guise.
Mr Kerr has seen 12 cases since Wednesday and many of his customers have been left in tears after realising they have lost valuable business records or irreplaceable family memories.
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He said that in its latest form, the virus masquerades as a New South Wales speeding fine.
It locks users out of their pictures, Word and Excel documents and emails, and they are encouraged to pay a "ransom" equivalent to $600 to have their data retrieved.
Mr Kerr urged users not to pay any money because once the virus had taken hold, it could not be reversed.
"It was really bad when it first surfaced 12 months ago but it is worse now because they are getting smarter with the hoax email," he said.
"They are going to hit a wider audience and, as far as severity goes, there is nothing that has been worse because it renders all your information, all your data, useless.
"I have seen customers left in tears because for some it has affected a business which is their livelihood or for some home users, they have lost precious photos of weddings or the birth of their children."
Mr Kerr said the group that created the original virus had largely been shut down but the work they had done had been "reverse engineered" and made more effective. He reinforced the message that people should not pay the ransom.
"There is no way it will help them. There is no turning the clock back or trying to remove the encryption from files once this has happened.
"Paying the ransom simply means they will be losing more than they have already."
Mr Kerr expected more people to be affected.