Detectives from the UK Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) investigating cyber criminals who use “ransomware” have arrested three people.
Ransomware is a form of malicious software or malware that is served up by infected websites (which themselves may be legitimate). Victims inadvertently download the software which infects their computer. The scam takes different forms in different countries but in this British case, according to the Metropolitan Police computer users were fooled into believing they were the subject of a police investigation.
Once infected, the computer stops working and a page featuring Metropolitan Police logos appears, informing the user that they have been identified as committing offenses online. They are instructed to pay a fine – usually £100 ($120) by electronic payment – in order for their computer to operate again. The crooks take the money but do not unfreeze the victim’s computer.
Detective Inspector Jason Tunn, from the PCeU, said: “The arrests show we are determined to combat this type of crime. I remind all computer users that police do not use such a method to impose or enforce fines, so if you are confronted by such a page, do not enter any of your details. Call the police.”
Ransomware attacks are becoming more common as a means for cyber criminals to extort money from victims. Earlier in December, an Australian medical center was hit by ransomware which encrypted patient records. The malicious hackers behind the program demanded 4,000 Australian dollars ($4200) to release the records.