Cyber criminals attacking WA computers

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Consumer Protection is warning Western Australians about cyber criminals who are infecting computers with ransomware.

The scammers trick computer users into installing malicious software, or malware for short, by encouraging them to open up an attachment in an email or directing the person to a website where the ransomware is unknowingly downloaded.

After the ransomware is installed, victims receive a pop-up message saying they are locked out of their computer and that their files have been encrypted.  The scammers ask for payment to unlock the computer and set a deadline for the ransom to be paid.

Consumer Protection has received more than 30 reports of ransomware attacks over the past year.

Recently Consumer Protection was contacted by the owners of a removalist company that was attacked by ransomware after a staff member opened an attachment sent by email.  The small business lost several thousand dollars and information about clients before the problem could be rectified.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll believes the cases are just the tip of the iceberg as many attacks go unreported.

“Ransomware can be devastating not only to home computer users but small business owners who don’t have the time, expertise or resources to deal with the problem,” said Ms Driscoll.

“I urge Western Australians not to pay money to cyber criminals if their computers are infected by ransomware as the scammers are likely to come back for more money.

“Instead, use a different device to search online for a solution or seek help from a local computer technician.”

Take measures to prevent ransomware:

  • Do not open attachments that could be infected, especially from unknown senders.
  • If in doubt about an attachment do not open it, even if it is from someone you know.  Their computer or email account could have been hacked.
  • Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software and scan your computer regularly.
  • Keep a backup copy of your data in a safe place, disconnected from your computer and the internet.
  • Only visit reputable websites and online services.

For further information visit www.scamnet.wa.gov.au or enquiries can be made by emailing wascamnet@commerce.wa.gov.au or calling 1300 30 40 54.

END OF RELEASE

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
09 Apr 2015

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