UK warns of ransom scam targeting 10s of millions

Nov 15, 2013 by Raphael Satter

(AP)—British officials issued an unusually stark alert about a cyberscam that locks users out of their computers unless they pay a ransom, saying Friday that tens of millions of people may soon be targeted.

In a warning headlined "URGENT ALERT," Britain's National Crime Agency said they were aware of a "mass email spamming event that is ongoing" and urged computer users to beware of messages purporting to come from their bank.

Tony Neate, the chief executive of British Internet safety group GetSafeOnline, said it was noteworthy that the agency—often described as Britain's equivalent of the FBI—had sent out such a strongly worded alert about a cyberscam.

"They're only going to do it if they think it is serious," he said in a telephone interview.

The targeting Britons works by tricking people into downloading CryptoLocker, a new brand of that encrypts a user's hard drive, effectively putting their photos, documents, and other data under lock and key.

A 72-hour countdown clock appears on the screen warning that the files will be lost irrevocably unless a ransom is paid, either through Bitcoin—a tough-to-trace cybercurrency—or MoneyPak cash cards. Ransoms tend to be $100 or $300, according to BleepingComputer, a security website that has closely tracked CryptoLocker's spread.

Users who've paid the ransom have reported that their files are decrypted within a few hours, but Britain's crime agency warned that it did not endorse the payment of ransoms to criminals and warned that "there is no guarantee that they would honor the payments in any event."

Explore further: What to do when your computer gets kidnapped by ransomware

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User comments : 10

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frajo
2.5 / 5 (2) Nov 15, 2013
Operating systems?
BSD
1.3 / 5 (9) Nov 15, 2013
Operating systems?

MMMM... let's see I'll have a guess....
Which operating system is the favourite of virus developers and it itself is nothing more than a virus?

Microsoft
VendicarE
3.7 / 5 (3) Nov 15, 2013
Capitalism at it's finest.

Why is it Government and not Intel or Microsoft who is doing something about this?

Corporations like Microsoft create insecure Email systems that open insecure attachments and open users to malware, and then externalize the costs of preventing the corruption of such a system onto government.

Capitalism is pure Corruption.
RealScience
1 / 5 (2) Nov 15, 2013
@Vendicar, the anti-virus companies that protect most of us are created by private enterprise, and other companies spend millions of dollars finding security holes and issuing patches because of competition from other companies.

But maybe there is a better way - what ultra-secure government-created operating system and e-mail system are you using?

The problem is not capitalism. The problem is greedy and short-sighted people who abuse any system that crosses their path. There have been plenty of corrupt communist, capitalist, socialist, fascist, etc. societies, and plenty of corrupt private enterprises, state enterprises, religions and governments alike.

If you know of a system that is applicable to large groups of people and is not corruptable, please tell the world!
VendicarE
2.7 / 5 (3) Nov 16, 2013
"the anti-virus companies that protect most of us are created by private enterprise" - RealStupid

And virutally none of the products work to prevent infection as evidenced from the fact that most systems are infected with some malware.

Further those companies are nothing more than parasites feeding off the opportunity that is produced by the total failure of corporations to produce secure, competent code.

But producing secure, competent code isn't the interest of Corporations. Extracting as much money from your pocket is their only concern.

The failure is Capitalism.
VendicarE
3 / 5 (4) Nov 16, 2013
"If you know of a system that is applicable to large groups of people and is not corruptable, please tell the world!"

Money corrupts all things, because it makes everything of real value subordinate to the principle goal of extracting as much money from the public as possible.

The failure is Capitalism.

Capitalism is the name given to economic systems where the worst possible product is provided to the consumer at the highest possible price.

Never forget that.

Squirrel
1.7 / 5 (6) Nov 16, 2013
Capitalism for all its faults is better than its alternatives where you wait in a line for an afternoon for a product only to find it is out of stock unless you bribe an official.
MikeBowler
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 16, 2013
@VendicarE, you obviously don't understand why some malware slips through the net ((not the internet)) and i personally will not telling you why it does, because it is so easy to find out why that your ignorance is just beyond belief
RealScience
1 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2013
"the anti-virus companies that protect most of us are created by private enterprise" - RealStupid

And virutally none of the products work to prevent infection as evidenced from the fact that most systems are infected with some malware.


Ah - you must be using a BETTER form of protection for your computer, one no doubt NOT created by evil private enterprise. Please do enlighten us.

Capitalism is the name given to economic systems where the worst possible product is provided to the consumer at the highest possible price.


Worst possible product? So you really think that the Soviet Union produced better products than capitalism?
zaxxon451
5 / 5 (2) Nov 18, 2013
Capitalism for all its faults is better than its alternatives where you wait in a line for an afternoon for a product only to find it is out of stock unless you bribe an official.


Then maybe it's time for a new alternative.