Saturday, October 6, 2012

Computer Ransomware

I would expect most readers of this blog don’t need to hear this, but if it helps even one person it is worth it. If someone or some machine calls you out of the blue, politely hang up. Never give any information to someone you don’t know over the telephone, ever.

The other day my wife heard a new one. She received a phone call from a woman who could barely speak English. Most likely she was calling from India, but who can say. This person told my wife, she represented something that sounded like Microsoft but my wife wasn’t exactly sure what she said. This woman told my wife we had a computer with a Windows based operating system. She told my wife that she was the primary user. The woman then told my wife we had “malicious software” on our machine. She used that term over and over in her pitch. She told my wife she had to turn on our computer and download repair software from a certain site. Well, if we didn’t have malicious software on our computer before that download we certainly would have malicious software after the download.

My wife couldn’t understand the phone pest, either her English or the merits of her technical expertise, so she did the right thing. She hung up the phone.

From time to time there have been problems with fake virus checking software sites that offer to check your computer for free. Of course they find problems that require you to buy their program for the fix. If you are really lucky, these fake programs will leave a Trojan Horse on your machine so criminals can locate information that might lead to identity theft.

There is even a new version of this scam called the FBI Moneypak Virus. From WND article entitled “FBI Computer Virus Sweeping Across Nation.” This little beauty takes control of your computer, flashing a message on your screen that the Government has taken control of your computer because it has been linked to illegal activity such as, “owning of distributing copyrighted material, pornography, or malware.” This program can even use your web camera to make you think your picture is being sent to the FBI.

Ah, but the nasty program tells you there is hope. It then demands that you buy a pre-paid debit card for $200 to pay the fine. You are instructed that after paying the fine your computer will be unlocked. If you don’t pay the fine you are threatened with further legal action.

Don’t buy the card. Don’t pay the fine. You have no way of knowing if the hackers will unlock your machine or just keep your money. If this happens, you do have a real problem. Your computer will be worthless until your hard drive is cleaned up by a competent professional.

You know the rest of the story. Buy or download free virus checking software from a reputable vendor. Keep it up to date. Make sure you have and use your updated copy of Windows Defender, a program that protects against a variety of malware, spyware, and the like. In addition consider further protecting your privacy with something like Ghostery. It is still a jungle out there on the wild and wooly Web. Even Mac owners are now targets.

As for those phone solicitors, listen to Fox Mulder from the X-Files, “Trust No One!”

No comments:

Post a Comment