So you’re sitting there, innocently using your computer, when a window flashes on the screen, bearing the logo of the FBI. You’ve been locked out of your computer for breaking some not-too-specifically-identified copyright law. The solution on the screen? Pay a fine to the “FBI” to “unlock” your computer and use it again.
Think this is a new way for the FBI to deal with computer crime? Think again – you’ve just been a victim of a particularly nasty new virus – Reveton.
Ransomware — A Sneaky Form of Virus
Like a biological virus, computer viruses are constantly evolving to take advantage of unsuspecting hosts. In this case, you are dealing with a form of virus called “ransomware”, because it holds the victim’s computer hostage until a ransom is paid to a mysterious third party.
Reveton disables the computer and displays a bogus-but-somewhat-intimidating message on its screen claiming that the computer’s owner has violated federal law. The malware locks the system until the owner pays the “fine” using a specific pre-paid money card service. For added spookiness, some variants of this virus will use your webcam to take a photo of you to include in its faked warning window. (Yikes!)
Most law enforcement agencies in the United States do not issue fines and disable computers without due process – meaning you have a legal means to defend yourself. Plus, we are pretty confident the FBI would never take payments from only one specific brand of money card (even if it is widely available at your local convenience store).
What to Do If Infected
Geek Squad has the following recommendations for anyone who believes they may have a computer infected with this Reveton virus:
- First: don’t panic. (Fear is the mind killer.)
- If asked to enter a form of payment, credit card, or personal information into any web window you did not specifically request, do not do so.
- If you have already paid (or somehow manage to bypass the lock), you’re not out the woods yet. There may still be malware running on your computer that can impact your privacy or security. Contact a Geek Squad Agent through our Online Support website, by phone at 1-800 GEEK SQUAD, or at a Geek Squad Precinct in a Best Buy store near you.
To help prevent your computer from becoming a victim of a virus infection like this, always remember to keep your antivirus protection current and up to date. Feel free to use our free virus and spyware scanning tools in the Self Help area of our website.
To help protect your important data (such as photos, documents, or music), create and follow a consistent backup plan, using an external hard drive or online backup service. We have tips on backing up your data (link to http://www.geeksquad.com/do-it-yourself/tech-tip/tips-for-backing-up-your-data.aspx), creating good passwords (http://www.geeksquad.com/do-it-yourself/tech-tip/keys-to-a-secure-password.aspx) and protecting your computer against spyware (http://www.geeksquad.com/do-it-yourself/tech-tip/how-to-protect-against-spyware.aspx) in the Tech Tools area of our site.
As always, Geek Squad Agents are ready to help you with any questions you have about your technology. Visit our web site (www.geeksquad.com) or give us a call at 1-800-433-5778.
Agent Derek has been removing techno-stress from the lives of his Geek Squad clients since 2005. When not providing remote help as an Online Support Agent, he likes to take to the road on a vintage motorcycle for adventures through Ohio country highways.