January 11, 2013
Niles Nerd

Cyber Criminals Making Millions from Computer Ransom Scams

fbi1 - Nerds On Site Symantec released new research highlighting widespread “ransomware” scams in Europe, the U.S., and Canada. The research estimates cybercriminals are *extorting* millions each year from victims. The full research can be read here.
Here are some facts from the research.
“The research shows that up to 2.9 percent of victims end up paying ransoms. That number is significant given fees range up to $460 and a single gang was observed attempting to infect 495,000 computers over just an 18 day period. It also highlights the professionalization of ransomware as it becomes a popular ploy among numerous cybercrime gangs. Of particular note is the use of social engineering to convince users that they are being required to pay a fine by local law enforcement for browsing illicit materials.”
We have had several clients request help after being infected by similar viruses and malware designed solely to convince you that you’ve done something illegal, or have illegal content on your computer, when in fact you do not, but feel compelled to pay them to regain access to your computer. There is in fact NO guarantee that will happen, and your system will still be infected by that malicious software.
“The infection takes up the full screen even in safe mode and will not allow you to open Task Manager or run anything,” Emmet Loney, a Nerd in Ontario, points out. “I am currently scanning with Malwarebytes (and ESET Smart Security in the background) to try and remove the infection but the client has 125 GB of data and I expect a full scan to take 1 to 2 hours.”
Malware Bytes and ESET NOD32 Antivirus are just two of the programs Nerds On Site uses in a multi-step process to ensure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that your home or business computer is no longer infected, and stays that way (we’ll educate you on how to NOT get infected again)!
This is a great time to remind each and every one of you to PLEASE backup your data, and have us help you setup a routine to back it up weekly, if not daily, and automatically, locally and off-site in your home or business! That way, if a threat does infect your system(s), we can restore the workstation or server to it’s former infection-free glory, without having to worry if there are current backups to restore from.
A previous blog post we did describes the Canadian Police Enforcement Virus Scam, which tried to convince people their computers were being used for child porn or illegal music sharing, and the only way to regain access to your computer was to pay a fine.
If you encounter such malware or ransomware on your computer, please pay attention to that gut feeling or second thoughts you get, and if you’re unsure of what to do, besides not pay the supposed fine, call a Nerd! We’re happy to help remotely if we can, or make an on-site visit to remove the malware and help ensure it never happen again.
Have you had experiences with this sort of malware or virus? Please leave a comment below with your story, or on our Facebook page, or send us a tweet!

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