Ocean County Prosecutor Warns Consumers of Malicious Software

Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford today issued a warning to consumers who use personal computers, that malicious computer programs may trick them into submitting money to unknown entities, all part of an identified computer scam.

The Prosecutor said, “Recently the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office has received several calls regarding computers which have been reportedly locked by the FBI. The message on the computer tells the user that they are being investigated by the FBI for certain illegal computer activities, ranging from illegal music downloads to even allegations of trafficking”, and other illegal activity.

“Naturally, this type of message is upsetting to the unsuspecting consumer. The message instructs the user to purchase a money order or gift card to pay a fine or risk being arrested by the FBI or some other law enforcement entity. This type of activity is a scam.

“Known as “Ransomware”, this scam has been reported in over twenty (20) countries in Europe and has now reached our shores, infecting computers in the United States. Symantec Corporation, a leading software producer in the world, has labeled Ransomware the “. . .new Nigerian e-mail scam”.

“When Ransomware infects your computer, it will cause the computer to lock up. For example, Ransomware will create a pop up window or a webpage warning which advises the user that they have been engaged in some type of illegal activity on the internet. The computer system is then rendered unusable until the ransomware is removed. This pop up looks official and even uses what appears to be an official FBI logo with detailed instructions on how the user may pay a fine in order to prevent being arrested. The message advises the user that once the fine is paid the machine will be unlocked or the user will be sent a code to unlock the machine. The malicious software can be installed from a website the user has visited, from an email, instant message or a message on a social network which the user receives.

“The FBI has recently issued a warning advising people that they should not send any money in response to this type of activity. They are asked to report ransomware infections to the FBI by logging on to their website at www.ic3.gov.”

The Prosecutor continued, “Any questions about ransomware can also be reported to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, High Tech Crimes Unit, 732-929-2027, and we will make a referral on your behalf to the FBI.”

Prosecutor Ford said that consumers can avoid being a victim of Ransomware by taking the following precautions:

1. Keep all security software on the computer up to date;
2. Keep your firewall turned on, and
3. Do not open spam email messages or links to suspicious websites

Once a computer is infected, people are often forced to bring their computer to a repair store to have the issue resolved, causing unnecessary expense, inconvenience and loss of use of the personal computer.

Computer users can also use the free removal tools available from many of the anti-virus companies. Prosecutor Ford concluded, “Although anti-virus companies are working to prevent this type of activity, unfortunately computer criminals are always updating their tactics and inventing ways to circumvent the computer industry’s anti-virus programs. The best prevention is to not be a victim of computer fraud in the first place.” TLS.

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  1. Shut it down with the on/off switch. Turn back on. Clear your browser cache – do not say yes when it asked you to restore last session which closed unexpectedly. Worst case boot into Safe Mode and run your latest update of your anti-virus (you do have the latest?) you can also do a system restore from safe mode. There are other options also but you may require a site visit. I warned you guys last year and if you were up to date on your anti-virus/firewall and scans you wouldn’t be having this problem now. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Folks, be diligent in anti-virus updates and scans and OS and software updates. I see too many problems with people that are at severe risk and compromise because they are just lazy and negligent.

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