Beware the ransomware scam

By: Lisa Lagace

Canadians around the country have been reporting being locked out of their computers at a high rate lately, says the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Technological Crime Branch.

It primarily happens after users have received a pop-up message saying their computer has been associated with illegal music downloading or child pornography.

The warning messages look official and claim to come from Canadian government agencies like the RCMP, and advise the user to pay $100 via Ukash – a payment service provider – in order to have their computer unlocked.

These messages, known as ransomware, are scams created with the intent of scaring the user into responding quickly and sending the money.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre advises that if you receive one of these messages, you need to be aware of the following points:

1) The ransomware is an attempt to defraud you.

2) Sending money will not fix your computer – it will remain locked. DO NOT SEND MONEY.

3) Neither the RCMP nor any other Canadian government agency would hijack computers in order to obtain money. The ransomware presence is hard evidence that your computer has been infected by malicious software (malware) that must be dealt with.

4) The recommended way to re-gain access to your computer is to seek the help of a computer technician who can remove the malware.

5) To protect against cyber attacks, you must regularly update your software. You should have up-to-date anti-virus, spyware and firewall protection.

Cyber crime has seen an increase lately in Canada, with the country now being considered the main center for this kind of activity.

The website CMIT Solutions offers helpful advice when dealing with this kind of malware. They note that it’s important to be aware of scareware designed to trick you into thinking you’ve done something wrong. A basic rule of thumb: anytime money is part of the equation you should be suspicious and contact your computer tech.

Experts say malware falls into two different categories: malice and greed.

Ransomware falls squarely into the greed category and, unlike the malice types, these perpetrators are in it for the cash potential rather than an interest in hurting people.

This scam is a form of data hijacking, as it doesn’t destroy your data like a virus but instead locks you out of it and threatens you with a ransom fee. Usually it will give you just a few hours to pay the fee before it claims to delete all your data.

If you come across this scam, do not try to fix it yourself as this is known to cause even more problems with your computer. Instead contact your computer guy and get him to remove the malware as soon as possible.

The best way to protect yourself? Running good antivirus software is key, as is backing up all your data on a regular basis.

Sources: Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, CMIT Solutions 

Photo ©

Beware the live chat banking scam
Canada the new hub for cybercrime
Why people fall for scams
Confused about online security?
Identity theft hits businesses