THE UNITED STATES Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has alerted the public about a virus named Reveton that issues fake FBI warnings demanding infected victims pay to unlock their computers.
Reveton is described as "drive-by" malware due to its ability to activate and install itself when users visit a compromised web site. Unlike most viruses, it doesn't need to install a file or attachment.
Once it has infected a victim's PC, Reveton then locks their computer, saying the user is in violation of US federal law.
"The bogus message goes on to say that the user's Internet address was identified by the FBI or the Department of Justice's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section as having been associated with child pornography sites or other illegal online activity," the FBI said in a statement.
"To unlock their machines, users are required to pay a fine using a prepaid money card service."
The Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) has said that it is getting "inundated with complaints" regarding the virus. Donna Gregory who oversees a team of cyber crime experts declared that "some people have actually paid the so-called fine".
The FBI first warned of the virus in May and has since been tracking its progress.
One victim who wrote to the IC3 said that they received the pop-up message while browsing the Internet and found "no way to close it".
"The window was labelled FBI and said I was in violation of one of the following: illegal use of downloaded media, under-age porn viewing, or computer-use negligence," the unnamed victim said.
"It listed fines and penalties for each and directed me to pay $200 via a MoneyPak order. The page said if the demands were not met, criminal charges would be filed and my computer would remain locked on that screen."
The IC3 warns that if you are a victim of the Reveton virus, you should not pay any money or provide any personal information and should immediately contact a professional to remove it from your computer.
"Be aware that even if you are able to unfreeze your computer on your own, the malware may still operate in the background," warned the IC3. "File a complaint and look for updates about the Reveton virus on the IC3 website." µ