Ransomware is one the many scams that Internet users dread. Once this type of malicious program is installed, it asks the user for “ransom” to unlock the computer, using various pretexts and pretending to be a local police authority.
In one case, a user clicked on a malicious link and was bombarded with pornographic pop-ups. The user attempted to restart his computer, when he received a message that was allegedly from the RCMP (“Royal Canadian Mounted Police”) stating that pornography was detected on his computer. The message indicated that he was required to pay a $100 fine for the offense in order to unlock his computer.The page that was displayed was virtually identical to the RCMP’s legitimate website. Unfortunately, even after paying the amount requested, the victim’s computer remained locked. The individual then contacted the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre that informed him that he had been the victim of a scam and that more than 2,000 such complaints had been reported since February 2012.
Similar malware software encrypts files with passwords, thus preventing them from being opened, rather than freezing an image or webpage on a screen.
Hackers also exploit the use of prepaid cards (e.g. MoneyPak, PaySafeCard, etc.) as well as gas cards (e.g. Esso), because transactions can be anonymous and more difficult to trace than those carried out with credit cards. They are also transferable.
Tips to avoid being victimized
- Never pay the ransom requested. There are usually antivirus tools or specialists available to remedy the situation.
- Do not click on links from unknown sources (e.g. unsolicited emails, messages from strangers on social networks, etc.)
- Install security patches and update software. Malware typically exploits existing vulnerabilities on operating systems or software.
- Make regular backups. In the event that your computer’s software must be reinstalled, it is important to be able to recover important files and documents from other media (external hard drive, CD-ROM, etc.).
- Alert the authorities. In fact, few victims alert the authorities because some are afraid to come forward or don’t know what to do. However, informing the authorities can help them discover these scams and attempt to intercept fraudsters. Also, they can provide valuable advice as to how to eliminate malware and regain control of your computer.
Businesses must make their employees aware of this type of scam that is becoming more prevalent and has most recently been affecting smartphones.
For more details on the RCMP case, please view the following article:
Visit the following sites to learn more about how to protect yourself from various scams or fraud:
United States: https://www.onguardonline.gov/
By Patrick Paradis, Information Security Advisor