Europol's European Cybercrime Centre has warned internet users to remain vigilant against the "exponential" growth in police ransomware, which tricks users into handing over cash to criminals.
The scam uses malware that displays warnings on a user’s computer pretending to be from a law enforcement agency and claims that because the user has engaged in activity such as file-sharing or visiting terrorist websites, a fine must be paid before the computer will be unlocked.
It is estimated that millions of euros have been handed over to crooks as a result of this scam. Troels Oerting, head of the European Cybercrime Centre at Europol, said internet users must remain alert to this growing menace.
“Malware attacks in the form of ransomware will unfortunately increase. It is a cash cow for criminal enterprises, easy to use and difficult for victims to protect against. All kinds of innocent users are potential victims of this crime – not just mainstream users but also businesses and public services,” he said.
“EC3 will continue to assist EU member states' law enforcement agencies in combating this crime and tracing the criminal proceeds. In the meantime we all need to increase awareness amongst all internet users to avoid further impact.”
Europol also emphasised the need for greater cross-border co-operation between member states to tackle police ransomware, as well as some guidelines on how to avoid falling victim to the scam.
These included making sure your operating system is up to date, that antivirus software is active and working, carefully checking any attachments before opening them, backing up your computer regularly and reporting any incidents to the police.
The warning was issued as part of new research into the threat of ransomware scams, which noted the ease with which criminals can now access such tools to engage in online scams.
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