As technology advances, so do the techniques of people who prey on everyday users. Just like the bad guys in the physical world have improved, so have online bad guys, or cybercriminals. The latest devious heist technique is called ransom ware, and it’s nastier than its predecessors. It has several names: FBI Moneypak, Citadel Reveton, or just the Reveton Virus.
It works by infecting your computer in the same way as a traditional virus, whether by email or a booby-trapped website. Once it’s set itself up on your computer, it holds your computer for ransom. It does this by directing the user to a bogus government website, accusing the user of various internet crimes, from copyright infringement to downloading child pornography. The user is told that they must pay a penalty fine in order to unlock their computer, usually between one and two hundred dollars. Most versions require a pre-paid credit card, such as those bought at Walmart or elsewhere.
Some variants can even turn on your webcam and record video of you, adding to the “we know who you are and where you live” factor, however, this is simply a scare tactic, as the entire process is automated for the greatest spread of the virus per hacker. However, the damage done is not simply a scare tactic. The more you use your computer while infected with the virus, the more personal information such as your finances can be sent to the hacker for them to use.
It can even lock the user out of their computer, rendering it completely unusable. The FBI recommends contacting a computer repair specialist in this case, as trying to fix it on your own can exacerbate the problem.
The FBI is aware of this scam and details it on their webpage: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams. Their tips are essentially the same as any computer repair technician would tell you; don’t download things you are unsure of; scan files for viruses, and don’t pay the terrorists, go to a computer repair specialist.
If you want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you, download Malwarebytes. It is constantly updated to keep up with this virus and all others, and is a good all-round computer protector. It will even help you remove the virus if it is able to slip through or if you’re already infected.
Finally, if you haven’t been attacked by this nasty bug, consider installing a firewall router to limit unauthorized, outward-bound traffic from your computer to the Internet and limit your surfing to lesser-known sites, particularly those that facilitate file sharing.