You may have already come across this strain of malware before: a big, official looking notice pops up on your screen accusing you of software piracy. You are offered the opportunity to pay your “fine” online, which appears to be the only way to remove the notice and get back the use of your computer. This form of extortion scam is known as “scareware” and has been around for years. Most technology users are savvy enough these days to no longer fall for this particular tactic, but a new form of scareware accusing users of viewing child pornography is now circulating that is giving even the most hardened malware veterans cause to pause. As you can imagine, being accused of this particularly heinous activity puts potential victims into the uncomfortable position of sharing this with someone else, something that they may be willing to avoid by paying what now may seem like a reasonable “fine”. Cybercriminals are counting on the squeamish and privacy-conscious nature of most people in this regard, and it’s likely we’ll see a huge uptick in this type of scareware tactic.
What this means for you:
No law enforcement agency in the United States issues fines via the internet, and they certainly don’t hold your computer hostage until the fine is paid. If your computer is infected with a scareware virus, immediately disconnect it from the network and contact your IT department or technology consultant, regardless of what you are allegedly accused of doing by the scareware notice. Any IT professional worth a darn will be intimately familiar with this particular type of malware and should be able to remove it from your computer, BUT, depending on the level of infection, your data and identity may be at risk, as well as your personal information, especially if you’ve accessed online bank accounts or other sensitive online information. You’ve backed up your important data on that computer right? Because many times, it’s easier to wipe a computer completely clean and start with a fresh operating system rather than cleaning up a malware infection. This is yet another reason in a long list on why you should be backing up your data regularly.
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