There is a new “drive-by” virus roaming the Internet and it carries a fake message – with a threat of a fine purportedly from the FBI.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has issued an urgent warning about a major “ransomware” campaign after being inundated with complaints from US consumers locked out of their PCs. Once infected, the victim’s computer immediately locks and a violation of federal law notice appears.
The notice cites false charges ranging from illegal use of downloaded media (copyright law), under-age porn viewing or computer-use negligence with instructions to pay a fine via a prepaid card service. It warns that if demands were not met, criminal charges would be levied and the computer would remain locked.
Ransomware, a form of malware, is rogue software which effectively holds a computer hostage until a “ransom” is paid. The very one I encountered last month did just that. It locked the system thereby displaying an authentic looking FBI alert demanding a fee for supposed user infractions while the webcam, which had been activated by the virus, transmitted images of those within the view of the camera to the fake FBI screen.
A scam that attempts to simulate the FBI’s authority is nothing new. However, the use of this type of drive-by malware in such a manner is fairly recent. The IC3’s 2011 Internet Crime Report released May 10, 2012 states that the most common complaints received in 2011 included FBI-related scams (schemes in which a criminal poses as the FBI to defraud victims), identity theft and advance-fee fraud.
Malware inflictions such as Ransomware are the result of a computer user clicking on an infected email attachment or by visiting a hacked website. Drive-by malware will download by taking advantage of vulnerabilities in Web browsers or plug-ins that work within the browser or by the user clicking into a compromised website.
Even if you are able to unfreeze a computer on your own, the malware may still operate in the background. Certain types of malware can capture personal information such as user names, passwords and credit card numbers through embedded keystroke logging programs, keyloggers, and send it to their home base. It is best that you contact your computer technician for assistance.
To help protect your computer against malware follow these guidelines: Keep your computer’s software patched and current. Make sure Windows Updates is enabled and keep your anti- virus/anti-spyware software updated and scan on a regular basis.
For Windows operating systems update through Automatic Updates in XP or Windows Update in Vista or Windows7, both found in the computer’s control panel, and for other software always update through legitimate sites. Only download updates from reputable sources.
Don't open spam email messages or click links on suspicious websites and be cautious when opening attachments. You don’t know where the thread has been and what it may contain, sound familiar?
Be wary of sites that offer something for free such as poker or music. Do your research before clicking into something that you are not familiar with.
Install and use a firewall. If you are running Windows you are more than likely using the built-in firewall under Control Panel which is fine, there are other versions of Firewalls on the market but they can be confusing to configure and maintain.
If you have any questions or need help please contact me, Peggy Pope c/o CAppTech, Computer Applications and Technology Service, at 346-6149.