Criminals are mounting a new ransomware scam, which locks computers to display a message claiming to come from the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) demanding payment to unlock it.
Soca issued a statement alerting web users to the scam, saying that the agency will never request money from the general public.
"Soca is aware that its name and brand have been used by criminals attempting to defraud members of the public. Computer users find that their screens are locked, and at the same time they receive a message purporting to be from Soca which states that their computer screen will only be unlocked if they pay a fine," read the statement.
Soca head of cyber, Lee Miles told V3 the agency has detected several similar scams in recent months. "This is a fairly common scam where crime groups use police and wider law enforcement logos and branding to attempt to trick unsuspecting individuals and businesses into either revealing data that can be later monetised or pay a ‘fine' for either release of the computer or for some spurious act alleged to have been committed, for example visiting illegal websites. This is an international phenomena and not something restricted to the UK."
Prior to the warning a ransomware pretending to stem from the US FBI appeared targeting Mac OSX users. Earlier still a separate scam displayed messages claiming to come from London's Metropolitan Police.
Security experts have said the marked increase in ransomware is due to the its high success rate, with security vendor Symantec claiming the scams are earning criminals as much as $33,000 per day at the end of 2012. Despite their high success rate, law enforcement has had some success taking down the ransomware criminal rings. In February Spanish police reported taking down the criminal gang behind the infamous Reveton ransomware.
Miles said Soca is working with partners to mount similar anti-ransomware operations."Soca works closely with international partners in tackling this and and other cyber threats - and when the new National Crime Agency becomes fully operational later in the year it will include a new specialist National Cyber Crime Unit. This will continue to lead the UK's fight against this area of organised crime, work to reduce the threat and protect the public."
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