My last Letter from Ana was an amusing reflection on a putative zombie apocalypse. Now I want to warn people about a genuine contagion, a potential threat to all computer users. I can speak personally about this because it hit me last week, causing an hour or two of anxiety. My remarks are specifically addressed to people outside Europe, where the threat, I believe, has not yet appeared. North America looks likely to be the next target.
Anyway, it’s a virus that came to England recently from the Continent, where it first appeared in Germany, affecting Windows users. It purports to be a notice from the police, appearing right across your screen, saying that because you have been detected visiting illegal sites your computer has been locked. And, my goodness, it has; all files and icons have disappeared. Even ctrl alt delete does not work. The notice proceeds with a warning that unless one pays £100 fine ($130) within twenty four hours then one’s computer will be wiped clean.
Mine supposedly came from London’s Metropolitan Police Force. I now know that the scam (other forces are mentioned also) is called the Metropolitan Police Ukash virus, a form of ransomware. I was worried but not at all phased. For one thing, I don’t visit illegal or pornographic sites, and for another, this is little more than demanding money with menaces, a practice clearly at variance with all legal and police procedure. Apart from that the wording and grammar is atrocious!
However, I understand that a lot of people, visiting porno sites or not, have been seriously unsettled by this, the very idea that the police had such power. In fact it’s a just a parcel of creepy cyber crooks. The police themselves are aware of this. The Met issued its own warning, advising people not to reveal details of their bank accounts.
As I say, my PC was infected by this Trojan. Fortunately I also have a lap top and was able to carry out a spot of research. I linked up with some other users who had been similarly affected, managing to alight on a solution suited to my own particular problem, once I worked my way through a lot of technical jargon! The solution seems to be different in each case. I have Windows7 and for me at least it was relatively simple, though I note that other users seemed to be in deeper crisis.
I should add that the Trojan managed to get round my existing anti-virus protection, which is a slight concern. The bigger one is over exactly where this nuisance came from. I’m always careful. In future I shall be even more so. Criminals are imaginative. It’s up to us to be even more imaginative and not be scared by the unexpected. Take care out there!