'Scotland Yard' ransom virus holds computers hostage

“This locking serves to stop you illegal activity.”

The professional cyber criminals behind the virus are spreading it to victims’
Windows computers by hacking into legitimate websites and inserting their
malicious software, an off-the-shelf hacking tool called BlackHole. Licences
to use the tool are sold online for $2,000.

The security firm F-Secure said thousands of web users have been affected in
13 countries since March. Once a victim’s computer is infected, the
criminals detect their location and issue a bogus demand from a local law
enforcement agency in the local language.

Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure’s chief research officer, said most victims became
infected because they did not keep their browser add-ons up-to-date.

“Computers get infected because they have an outdated version of Java, Flash
or some other add-on,” he said.

“The infection is invisible to the end user until the user reboots the
computer.”

The Met said those affected should not hand over any money or bank details in
an effort to unlock their computer. The majority of known British victims
had not, it added.

“We would advise anyone who has been deceived by such a message and handed
over monie should report the matter to the card issuer immediately and
report the offence to their local police by dialling “101” or the local
non-emergency police number,” the Scotland Yard spokesman said.

Mr Hypponen said computer users should back up their data in case they fall
victim to the “ransomware” scam. Details of how to manually remove the
infection have been posted online.