HARLINGEN — Welcome, you’ve been hacked.

“You’re done, you’re toast, I can’t help you,” said Victor Leal, Cybernation business owner and computer specialist.

He was talking to an audience of local business owners yesterday during the Downtown Harlingen morning coffee meeting about the next online virus to watch out for – Ransom ware.

“You get an email, you click on it and boom, your computer is infected,” Leal said. “The computer data is being encrypted in the background to hold the computer files for ransom.”

Leal told the group of business owners ransom ware takes over computer information and it can only be returned for a hefty price paid for with bit coins.

A bit coin is an international form of currency that is not recognized by any country.

Leal said when bit coin started, a single bit coin was worth one penny but now they are worth $350 each.

“I think a lot of people really tuned in,” Leal said. “I can look back at people and they look at me with horror in their eyes.”

The audience was quiet and concentrating on what Leal was saying.

A normal user typically is hacked by clicking unsuspecting links that are tied to computer viruses or computer hackers.

“I don’t care what they tell you, I don’t care what you buy,” Leal said. “The only way to get rid of ransom ware is to pay the ransom.”

He recommends a computer backup and good antivirus program to keep sensitive business information from being lost or stolen.

Downtown Harlingen hosts monthly meetings on the first Thursday of every month. They are open to the public and scheduled at different downtown business locations at 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. regularly.

“I think the information he (Leal) provided on cyber security was extremely riveting and helpful for a lot of the folks here,” said Cheryl LeBerge, downtown manager.

Every table at J&B’s Café was full. The guests at the meeting talked over coffee and pastries and met new business owners.

“The meeting was really nice,” said Carlos Perez, downtown Shabby Fufu store owner. “The story about the computers was scary.”

Perez said he and his wife need to be careful with what they are clicking on the computer.

Winners of the Christmas storefront decorating contest were announced at the meeting as well.

D’ Arte Centre came in third place, Shabby Fufu got the nod for second, and Twinkets & Friends was selected the winner.