Ransomware scam hits thousands

Another crafty scam has hit Australian shores, this time cyber criminals are ‘scraping’ social media accounts to find personal information that can be used to ransom your computer.

The ransomware scam fittingly known as ‘Locky’, works by hackers scouring social media profiles for information such as full names, job descriptions and addresses. This information is then converted into a seemingly legitimate email, such as the latest Australia Post parcel email scam, which tricks victims into activating a file that then locks their computer until a ransom is paid.

The scam, which was only recently discovered by antivirus and security company MailGuard, has since attacked millions throughout the world, and is being hailed as highly advanced. So advanced, that it has even managed to go undetected by many antivirus and malware protection programs. It can appear as an email attachment or may even be attached to Microsoft Word documents.

And it’s not just Aussies who are falling foul of this insidious internet infection. A hospital in the US had its IT systems ransomed, with staff then having to revert to pen and paper for days before the organisation was forced to pay $US17,000 (AU$22,772) to release its files.

Internet users are being advised to limit the amount of personal information they display through social media accounts and to be extremely cautious when opening any email attachments – especially if the source is unknown or not completely trustworthy.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) estimates that Australians have lost $80,000 to email parcel scams and advises that emails received claiming that consumers have an “undeliverable package” should be regarded with scepticism or deleted.

If you have a missing parcel, Australia Post will put a message under your door or letter box, so any emails stating otherwise will most likely be illegitimate. Regardless, it is advisable not to click on any links or download unknown files as they are most likely to contain malware.

Aussies are also being advised to back up their files regularly on an external hard drive.

If you receive any type of suspicious email that you think may contain malware, please contact ScamWatch or call 1300 795 995.

Have you, or do you know anyone who has been tricked by this scam? How much did it cost to release the files?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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