Ransomeware a growing cyber threat for thousands

PHILADELPHIA - December 20, 2013

It's gonna be very difficult for law enforcement to track down the perpetrators," said Rob D'Ovidio, Drexel University.

In the last 90 days, the FBI says thousands of people worldwide have opened a seemingly innocuous link to track a holiday package.

It looks legitimate enough but when you click on it, your computer files are suddenly encrypted. A doomsday clock appear saying you have only a matter of time to pay a ransom to get your files back.

"Essentially, your computer gets infected with a piece of software that's going to encrypt your hard drive. And what that means is, it's going to prevent you from accessing the files and the programs on your computer," said D'Ovidio.

It's called Cryptolocker Ransomware and it requires you to pay ransom to get back control, using the online virtual currency known as bitcoins.

"To put it plain and simple, it's untraceable," said D'Ovidio.

The Swansea Police Department, outside of Boston, recently fell victim to the scam and had to pay a $750 bitcoin ransom to avoid losing their files.

"The concern that I have is what continues to reside on that computer that from the malicious payload and the malware that was installed by the criminals," said D'Ovidio.

D'Ovidio says if you get a link appearing to be from UPS, Fed-Ex or a retailer to track your holiday package, don't click it.

"Open up your web browser, type in the address of the merchant or UPS or FedEx, go to the site directly, access your account and track the information that way," said D'Ovidio.

FBI officials say if you have been a victim of this internet scam, call a computer specialist to have your computer cleaned. They also urge you to file a complaint at www.ic3.gov.

For more information on e-scams, you can visit the FBI's E-Scam and Warnings webpage.

Copyright © 2024 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.