CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A massive cyber attack is holding people’s information hostage in 99 countries, including the United States.

The ‘ransomware’ virus usually comes in the form of an email, personalized and convincing, asking you to open a document or click a link. But the moment you do, the attack holds everything on your computer hostage until the owner pays up.

In most cases, it even puts a daunting countdown clock on your screen.

“It will get his hands on every file that it can see it from your computer,” cyber security expert Benn Rapp explained. “It starts exploring that computer, it takes at each file opens at scrambles it using a key, then saves the scrambled version and deletes the original.”

The only way to get your files back, is to pay a fine to receive the key to unlock your files.

This new mass wave of ransom ware attacks is now hitting major corporations, hospitals, even FedEx -- meaning countless customers may now have their personal information in the hands of dangerous hackers.

“It’s very serious, this is something we've been worrying about for a long time, this kind of wide scale attack,” Rapp said. “It’s straightforward blackmail.”

And nothing will fix it. Your only options are to pay up, or lose everything.

Experts suggest everyone back up their computers on an external hard drive right away, and be particularly wary of any unexpected emails or suspicious links.