Business crime experts are warning local companies to beware of an online extortion racket that is netting cybercriminals millions of pounds.
Malicious software, known as ‘Ransomware,’ locks or disables the victim’s system, displays a message accusing the victim of an illegal act, like downloading software illegally or accessing child pornography and demands payment of a ‘fine’ to unblock the computer.
David Ransom, the aptly named director of the Sheffield-based Business Crime Reduction Centre, says paying the fine does not solve the problem as the malware remains on the PC and must be removed manually.
“Ransomware victims become infected by selecting malicious links in emails, opening messages sent via social media sites or by visiting compromised websites,” Mr Ransom explains.
“The only way to tackle this type of malware is through prevention. Once it is on a system the victim will probably require expert help.”
Mr Ransom says companies and individuals can protect themselves by:
Ensuring updates for Microsoft Windows, anti-virus software and spam filters have been installed and firewalls are configured and fully enabled.
Avoiding visiting unknown or questionable websites and selecting suspicious links in emails.
Be aware that social media sites are regularly used to spread Ransomware and other forms of malware.