CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Residents in central and southern Ohio are reporting that that their computers are being infected by the Reveton ransomware virus.
This computer virus can install itself when an Internet user visits a compromised website. Once infected, the computer locks and displays a message stating that the FBI or Department of Justice has identified the computer as being involved in activities in violation of federal law. The user is instructed to send a prepaid money card in order to have the machine unlocked or face criminal prosecution.
FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Don Alway says the bureau has issued a warning against this particular ransomware virus because it threatens the FBI's reputation. "It affects the public trust in law enforcement."
Agent Alway says after freezing the victim's computer and the virus displays a sobering message. "That this was an FBI generated activity resulting in their computers being locked and requesting they pay a fine."
The cyber thieves want the fine can be paid with a pre-paid credit card and then they'll unlock the computer, but Agent Always says that's not how the FBI works. "The FBI never solicits money in any form, we do not collect fines."
FOX19's computer expert Dave Hatton says not every computer user knows that. "Organizations using these tactics are making as much as 54-thousand dollars a day extorting money out of people doing this."
The victims include some FOX19 viewers. Saadia says: "It got me and my system was protected. I call Microsoft and they clear it out. Good luck all." and Lisa says: "It hit three of my friends."
Hatton says the cyber thieves only need a small percentage of the millions of internet users. "If you can infect, lets say, 10-thousand computers a day and just get a small handful of them to cough up several hundred dollars...you're raking in a lot of money."
Hatton says its a lot of money at very little risk to the criminals. "They might be in India, they might be in Africa somewhere where there's maybe no law enforcement, no real way to track them down...and the other trick they like to use...they set up something, infect you...that thing may stay online a few hours, a few days then they'll shut it down, move it somewhere else."
The FbI and computer experts recommend you install good anti-virus software to help prevent a cyber attack, but if you do get infected.....step away from the keyboard and call a professional....Internet users are reminded that this is an Internet scam to extort money. They should not send any type of funds to the perpetrators of this hoax. The FBI does not collect fines or send messages seeking money.
The FBI Cincinnati Division and field offices around the country continue to receive a high number of complaints each day about this virus and scam.
Those who believe their computers may be infected should do the following:
- Do not pay any money or provide any personal information.
- Contact a computer professional to remove the malware and virus from your computer.
- Be aware that even if you are able to unfreeze your computer on your own, the malware may still operate in the background. Certain types of malware have been known to capture personal information such as user names, passwords, and credit card numbers through embedded keystroke logging programs.
- File a complaint at www.ic3.gov and look for updates about the Reveton virus on the IC3 website.