Although the FBI does not send out mass e-mails about cyber scams to private citizens, many people are seeing a notice in their inbox that the FBI has taken over their computer.
The FBI has not locked up your computer
Making the rounds of the unsuspecting all around the United States is a nefarious virus that
- Takes over computers
- Proclaims the FBI has locked them for illegal activity
- Tries to extract money from the owner
This is not due to the FBI! Officially known as the Moneypak Ransomware Virus, this is a scam to extort money. Many people have caught this malware from seemingly respectable sites.
One recent site that was victimized by this virus and infected users was NBC.com news in February 2013. The attack was discovered within minutes, but was still successful in infecting a number of users’ machines.
What exactly is this virus?
Technically the “FBI” virus is malware that uses the Citadel platform to deliver ransomware. It is delivered to your computer as a pdf file or by exploiting a vulnerability in Java. In addition to trying to get you to fraudulently send money, this malware can also commit credit card and online banking fraud.
The Citadel malware was created by the Russian underground. It is a complete toolkit to take over a computer. It has
- Plug-ins to steal data from Firefox and Chrome
- Advanced techniques to enable its injection into websites
- Updates for Trojan files that have been used to infect PCs
How can I avoid this virus?
To keep from getting this virus, it is particularly important to keep your Java and Adobe Reader updated. You should try and stick to reputable websites, although that is not a fail-safe.
So far, the virus has been infecting PCs rather than Macintosh operating systems, but it is wise to remain cautious if you are a Macintosh user. Historically, the Macintosh platform was safe from viruses and malware, but this is changing as the market share increases for Apple computers.
What to do if you are infected
Do not send money!
The FBI advises you to
- Contact a computer expert to help you remove the malware
- File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Keep your operating system up to date
- Keep your antispyware and antivirus software up to date