Scam of the day – May 7, 2013 – Ransomware update

I have previously warned you about this type of  scam on December 3, 2012, January 19, 2013 and as recently as March 26, 2013, but today’s update is because now it is personal.  When I went to turn on my computer today I was locked out and a Ransomware scam was facing me on my computer.  Ransomware scams occur when you find that you are unable to use your computer and you receive an email message or a notice on your screen, as I received, indicating that your use of your computer has been frozen due to illegal activity being detected on your computer.  A common variation of this scam being done now purports to be from the Department of Homeland Security and its National Cyber Security Division.  The version I got purported to be from the FBI.  Even scarier was the fact that it had control of my computer camera and a photograph of me appeared at the top of the phony notice.   In the notice I was told that I needed to pay a fine before my computer would be unfrozen and I would be able to have access to it again.  In fact, the freezing of my computer has not been done by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI or any other governmental agency.  It was done by a scammer who installed malware on my computer either through a tainted website, download or link that I had gone to  It is for this reason, that I am always reminding you never to click on links and download attachments unless you are absolutely positive that they are legitimate.  And even though I follow my own advice, somewhere I got caught.

TIPS

The best way to deal with ransomware is to avoid it in the first place.  Maintain a good firewall on your computer and install and maintain up-to-date security software.  Also, never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate.  Even if the link or download is in an email or a Facebook posting that appears to come from a friend of yours, their account may have been hacked and the communication may be from a scammer.  Never pay a ransom to regain control of your computer.  There is no guarantee that the criminal who froze your computer will let you off the hook.  Rather, have a computer professional go through your computer to find the source of the problem and resolve it.  It is also important to remember that no legitimate agency will freeze your computer and make you pay a fine to unfreeze it.  In my case, my security software was not able to stop the malware from initially freezing my computer, but when, through the use of free software from Malwarebytes, I was unable to unfreeze my computer, I was able to do a security scan and find that my security software had stopped the keystroke logging malware that the scammer had attempted to download to my computer.  Had I not had such software, my computer’s information would have been at the mercy of the scammer.

If you are a victim of ransomware, here are a couple of free links that can help you.   The first  is a link to Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center with links and instructions for removing ransomware infections from your computer: http://www.microsoft.com/security/portal/shared/ransomware.aspx#recover.  The second is to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware which will detect and remove malware such as trojans and spyware.  This was what I used to get rid of the malware freezing my computer.  The link is www.malwarebytes.org.  It is free although there is also an updated version, which I use.