Anybody who has owned a computer for a long enough time knows how pesky, irritating, and sometime downright debilitating computer viruses can be, and from worms to Trojan horses, it seems like there is no end to the dangers that are out there on the internet. Unfortunately, a new virus is on the prowl that not only locks up your computer, but that accuses you of committing felony crimes and prompts you to pay a legal fine to be able to use your computer again.
What is it?
They call it ransomware, and it has been around since 1989. Ransomware is set apart from other types of viruses because of the way that it will lock down a computer and demand that the user put forth payment for the problem to be resolved. The newer forms of this ransomware are claiming that they are from legitimate government entities, complete with seals and all, which is coercing users to pay the ransom not just to unlock their computer, but also to clear their name of crimes they never committed.
The FBI virus
One of the newer virus variants is colloquially being called the “FBI Virus”, because the infection dupes users into thinking that they are being contacted by the FBI. Essentially, a pop-up appears displaying your IP address, your internet connection info, an FBI seal, and the message that you have violated federal law and must now pay a legal fine to keep from being arrested. Some reports are quoting that this “legal fine” ranges anywhere from $200 to $400, and that the crimes being cited deal with illegally downloading music, games, and movies. Newer variants have become even more sinister than that.
Child pornography accusations
In Germany, one of the newest forms of this ransomware is accusing users of viewing child pornography. Instead of using false FBI credentials, the distributers are using a pop-up that looks like it came from Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security, and even displays a picture a child which “proves” to the user that the “agency” has found illegal material on the computer. The director of security research at Trend Micro has claimed that this was the first time he’d seen a virus displaying images and accusing users of downloading them, upping the emotional ante and pressuring users to pay.
Agencies around the world are warning users against ransomware, warning that law enforcement agencies are not sending pop-up messages to let you know that you’re breaking the law. In fact, the Better Business Bureau says that if you are caught doing anything illegal, you usually won’t be warned by law enforcement agencies at all, and that you definitely won’t be contacted via a pop-up. Better that you focus on getting your computer fixed by a legitimate PC repair company than paying the ransom.
Germany’s BKA, in response to the child pornography ransomware, said that users should not relinquish payment to the fine/ransom “under any circumstances”, advice echoed by various other law enforcement agencies. Besides going to the local PC shop, users should use security software such as anti-virus and anti-spyware to clean up the PC’s drive and to prevent infections from happening in the future.
Charles Trentham is diehard tech blogger who loves to write about software, technology, and future science. Recently he's begun tackling topics related to antivirus and Trend Micro in order to feed his tech habits. He enjoys spending time with his family and Kelpie named Elaine.