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Ransomware Expanding in the U.S.

by on December 21, 2012

A particularly insidious type of virus, dubbed “Ransomware” is growing quickly in the United States, taking PCs hostage. Ransomware infects a computer with a virus that locks it and makes it unusable. Then a message will pop up claiming to be from the F.B.I. or another law enforcement agency demanding a fine be paid before the computer will be unlocked. Unfortunately once the money is paid the computer is rarely unlocked.

The concept is about 3 years old, but is just beginning to be felt in the U.S. Although the hit rate is estimated to be around 3%, that still translates to more than $5 million a year take. Symantec says they have identified around 16 ransomware gangs, with one gang trying to infect more than 500,000 PCs over an 18-day period.

Some virus messages demand that the victims buy a preloaded debit card and enter the PIN. This way it’s impossible for victims to cancel the transaction once it becomes clear that they have no intention of unlocking their PC. In most cases the virus has to be wiped clean from the PC, without an easy way to remove it.

Never pay the ransom if it hits you. Symantec, Sophos and F-Secure are vendors that provide solutions for removing it, but be prepared to wipe the PC clean and start over.

From → Security

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