FBI alerts public to virus that commandeers computers, demands payment

The FBI is alerting the public to a sneaky, new virus being distributed over the Internet that that claims to be an alert issued by federal investigators who allege the computer user visited child porn sites or engaged in other illegal activity. The virus, which locks up and freezes the user's computer, then demands $200 payment via a pre-paid credit card in order for the user to regain control of the computer.

“We’re getting inundated with complaints,” said Donna Gregory of the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), referring to the virus known as Reveton ransomware, which is designed to extort money from its victims, the FBI said on its website today.

This type of virus is called a "drive-by" virus because it can install itself on a user's computer when the person visits a website, and doesn't have to download a file attachment.

The FBI said that once the computer is infected, the monitor displays a screen stating there has been a violation of federal law.

According to the FBI:

The bogus message goes on to say that the user’s Internet address was identified by the FBI or the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section as having been associated with child pornography sites or other illegal online activity. To unlock their machines, users are required to pay a fine using a prepaid money card service.

The FBI has been tracking this kind of virus since last year and warned of it in May.

What's creepy about it is that the virus can turn on a user's webcam and display pictures of the user on the screen. It's unclear if the user's pictures are being transmitted over the Internet.

The FBI said it's getting dozens of complaints a day about the virus.

If you're a victim of this virus, here's what the FBI suggests you do:

1. Do not pay any money or provide any personal information.

2. Contact a computer professional to remove Reveton and Citadel from your computer.

3. 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.

4. File a complaint and look for updates about the Reveton virus on the IC3 website.


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