An alarming number of complaints have been issued by Okanagan residents whose computers have become affected by ‘ransomeware’; it’s a type of computer virus that pops up with a message stating your computer has been frozen by the RCMP or some Canadian government agency.
Kelowna police have received over 250 complaints and now computer companies are seeing an influx of customers whose machines have been infected.
“We have at least 15 machines right now in our service centre with the same issue,” says Jon Cibelik, Manager of National Computer Resource Ltd.
“It tells you stupid things like you have committed this crime or that and even if you pay the fine, nothing happens.”
Cibelik first heard about this type of virus last summer and says it uses the typical scare tactics and fear mongering that cybercriminals have begun to implement into their attacks.
The pop-up warnings also request a fine of $100 which is payable in order for the computer to be unlocked.
“One of the customers who brought in their computer got charged eight hundred dollars on their card, and their computer was still locked,” says Cibelik, who notes the problem is fixable and the machines doesn’t necessarily need to be taken in for maintenance.
“You just need to take out the hard drive and in most cases you need to have rescue disks ready and the willpower to do it. It is possible to be done at home – if I had it at my home I could do it, but you need to know your way around computers,” he says.
Cibelik’s advice for residents to combat cybercrime is to stay vigilant.
He suggests that users should not click on links or email attachments that are not familiar or don’t make sense, adding that there may be a timer attached to this virus which means you may not notice any problems until hours or days later.
“That’s why it’s called a virus, it’s really easy to spread – it just needs to find a good host.”