Is The FBI Holding Your Computer for Ransom?
A concerned reader asks: 'A popup on my screen says an FBI Online Agent has detected illegal activity on my computer, and is demanding $200 to unlock my computer. What should I do?' Here's what you need to know about this so-called FBI Virus...
Removing the "FBI Virus"
The FBI Virus (also known as FBI Online Agent or Reveton) is a new variant of an old scam, and is popping up all over the Internet. Suddenly, your computer seizes up, and the screen displays an ominous message in a popup window. You are informed that the FBI has frozen your computer because the agency detected you downloading child porn, pirating copyrighted content, or some other illegal activity.
The message cites relevant criminal statutes and penalties. Then it says you can “settle” the charges with the FBI Online Agent by paying a fine that ranges from $100 to $400. Instructions on how and where to send the money are included. The payment method is always something from which you cannot recover your money, such as MoneyPak or Western Union.
But you’re innocent, right? (Let's hope so...) Well, this scam actually did scare one child porn consumer into turning himself in to the FBI. But that’s not you, and the government doesn’t operate this way, anyhow. Of course, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has nothing to do with this scam. (If the government wants more money, they can just raise your taxes.)
But that’s not the only issue; you can’t do anything with your computer until the “fine” is paid. Many people panic and pay the “fine” just to make the problem go away. But it doesn’t go away; it only gets worse. Once you’ve paid, more demands for payment arrive. Don't bother going to the Add/Remove Programs icon in your Control Panel. The Reveton/FBI malware doesn’t contain the usual “uninstall” code, because it wasn't intended to be removable.
The FBI Virus is a “drive-by” malware; it’s downloaded secretly to any browser that visits an infected Web site. Many of these rogue sites are porn or "warez" related, but any site could host the Reveton/FBI virus code. So don’t assume that “responsible surfing” will keep you safe.
Your best line of defense is up-to-date, real-time anti-malware software. Free programs I’ve recommended in the past will greatly reduce the chances that you will catch the Reveton infection.
Tools to Remove the FBI Online Agent Virus
Removing Reveton/FBI is difficult; some experts recommend letting a security professional do it. If you want to remove Reveton yourself, you can restart in Safe Mode and fiddle with the Windows registry. (I don't recommend this method, but you can Google for those instructions.)
The best method is to reboot your computer from a CD or USB drive that contains appropriate anti-malware software. If you don’t already have such a rescue disc or flash drive, you’ll have to download it and install it on removable media from a clean computer. I recommend the AVG Rescue CD for this purpose. Booting up from the rescue disk will bypass the virus, and commence a scan and removal operation to return your computer to normal.
HitmanPro is designed for removing ransomware like Reveton, rootkits, and other malware that interferes with the installation or use of regular antimalware products. It comes with a 30-day free trial and costs $20 to register for permanent protection.
Never pay a “fine” if you are struck by the FBI Virus or any other malware that demands ransom. Rest assured the FBI would have no trouble finding your front door if they really wanted to discuss a criminal matter with you. If you pay the ransom demanded, you're only lining the pockets of cyber-criminals and setting yourself up for further grief.
Going forward, avoid porn, pirated software, and other sketchy Web sites. Keep your anti-malware software up to date and fully active at all times. Make a rescue disc or USB drive before you need it.
Do you have something to say about removing the FBI Virus? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 Jan 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is The FBI Holding Your Computer for Ransom? (Posted: 18 Jan 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved