In the past you could avoid most email viruses if you didn't click on a link in a spam email or open its attachment. You could open the email, read the contents, delete it and you were fine.
No so anymore. "Drive-by" viruses are becoming more common, infecting computers when the user simply opens the email. While you can be victimized by a drive-by virus when opening an email, it's not the only way.
Often computers are infected without the users knowledge when they visit a particular website or click on a deceptive pop-up, thinking they are closing it. The consumer is unaware of what is happening until the virus takes control of the device.
In Connecticut, Attorney General George Jepsen says a number of his constituents have reported being victimized by a drive-by virus delivered by email that looks like it's from the FBI. In this case, the virus installs what is known as "ransomware," software that seizes control of all computer files until the victim pays a "ransom" to free the data.
In this particular case the virus immediately locks the computer and displays a screen stating there has been a violation of federal law and that the user's IP address was identified by the FBI for viewing child pornography and other illegal content.
The message then demands money through a prepaid money card service as a "fine" to the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Our office has received complaints from consumers who we believe have been victimized by this malicious email scam," Jepsen said. "It's important for consumers to be informed and to exercise caution to protect themselves from scams like this. Never click on a link or open an email attachment from someone you do not know and trust. I would urge any Connecticut resident who receives this email to report it immediately."
Links and attachments
In addition to not clicking on links or attachments, consumers should immediately delete any suspicious emails without opening and reading them. Not only are these viruses used to extort money, they may continue to operate on the computer and could be used to commit online banking and credit card fraud. Infected computers may not operate normally, and users may require the assistance of a local computer expert to remove the virus.
The FBI is cooperating with the National White Collar Crime Center on this issue and wants to hear from victims. You can reach their website here.Â