Hand-To-Hand Combat With The Insidious 'FBI MoneyPak Ransomware Virus'“STOP! YOUR COMPUTER HAS BEEN LOCKED BY THE FBI”
I had to ask myself on Super Sunday, “Am I the only Internet user on the planet who has not heard about the evil “FBI Moneypak Ransom Virus”?
Ok, let’s back up just a bit here.
I was sitting with my wife on Sunday watching the Super Bowl pre-game when my son came running into the family room quite upset. (He was planning to join us at kick-off time for the game and our traditional Super Bowl nachos, chili and wings.)
But with little interest in the pre-game, he was doing his usual thing on a Sunday early evening: watching 2-3 TV shows at once, communicating with friends in at least four different ways, and surfing the Internet, especially regarding his deep interests in music and hot cars.
So, this was just a bit unsettling as he burst in and informed us that “the FBI has locked down” his computer.
Now, knowing all the publicity in recent years for penalties for illicit downloading of movies and music, our first reaction was one not of total disbelief but rather: “Geez, what the heck has he gotten himself into?”
“Ok, bring in your computer and let’s take a look at this.” (I do want to note that our son is a good kid and we have had many conversations about the topic of unsafe and illegal websites and think he has been very responsive to our warnings, playing things very straight and safe on the Internet.)
And here is what we saw, or a close version of it:
Now, folks, this is very scary, especially when you think in the back of your mind there is even a 1% chance that the person owning that computer either intentionally or inadvertently downloaded something which in some way was copyright protected.
Let’s look more closely at some of the elements here:
-An “official” FBI seal
-The blaring warning: “Your computer has been locked!”
-Some variation of the message, “You have been violating copyright and related rights law.”
-Your IP address (or at least what purports to be).
-Realistic-looking and very detailed instructions on how you can pay a fine within the next 48 hours (here’s where MoneyPak comes in) and have your computer unlocked. Green Dot MoneyPak (which I had never heard of before this), per the notice, can be purchased at major retailers such as WalMart, CVS, Walgreens, Kmart, etc.
According to the Green Dot MoneyPak website:
MoneyPak is an easy and convenient way to send money to where you need it. The MoneyPak works as a ‘cash top-up card’. Once you purchase it at a participating retailer with cash, you can use it to reload prepaid cards, add money to a PayPal account without using a bank account, or make same-day payments to major companies.-But most importantly, the absolute inability to do anything on the computer and each repeated log-in only leads back to a frozen screen and “the FBI warning.”