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Ransomware computer virus attacks on rise, authorities warn

March 29, 2013|By Maeve Reston

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department issued a warning Friday about an uptick in complaints about an Internet virus that locks computers and demands payment after falsely alleging the user is guilty of a crime.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center first issued an alert in August about the virus known as Reveton ransomware virus, a malware program that can engage as soon as a victim clicks on a compromised website. The virus then locks the victim’s computer and displays a message claiming that there has been a violation of federal law.

The computer often displays a fake message purporting to be from the FBI or Department of Justice, claiming that the user’s Internet address has been associated with child pornography sites or other illegal activity.

The malware program tells users they can unlock their computers by making a payment through a money card service. Some victims have reported that in the effort to extort money, the virus has displayed a message stating the computer will remain locked and criminal charges will be filed unless demands are met.

Authorities have urged victims not to pay any money or provide any personal information, and say that victims should seek help from a computer professional to remove the virus. They have also warned that even if users are able to unlock their computers on their own, the malware may still be operating in the background.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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