Internet viruses don't always come in the form of an investment opportunity fom a far-away prince.
Sometimes they look like they come from your local government.
A new Internet virus may be targeting Maryland residents specifically, asking them to send money to the Comptroller of Maryland, according to Comptroller Peter Franchot.
"It has been brought to my attention that there may be a new variant of an Internet virus specifically targeting Maryland citizens," Franchot said on Wednesday.
"This virus locks up your computer, tells the user that the only way to unlock their computer requires them to send $200 to my office. This is absolutely not true. My office does not monitor private [citizens'] computer usage and has no authority to lock up a computer system or fine anyone for their Internet activities," he added.
Franchot said this virus seems to be a variation of one that the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) had its eye on last year. The Reveton ransomware virus sent a message telling users that they had violated federal law and needed to pay up.
"Generally a person’s computer becomes infected by a virus when they open an attachment or click on a link. This particular virus installs itself on the computer when the user visits a compromised website," the statement added.
The comptroller's office has compiled a list of ways to protect your computer. These tips were provided by the comptroller's office:
- Make sure you have good anti-virus software on your computer, keep it up-to-date and run a weekly scan.
- Don’t click on links, or an attachment, in an email that you aren’t absolutely sure comes from a trusted source.
- If there’s ever any question about the validity of a link, or attachment, contact the person, or company, that sent it to verify.
- Use USB drives cautiously. Viruses can be spread by plugging another USB drive into your computer, or using your drive in another computer.
- Pop-up ads that look like they came from your computer might be viruses. Check the validity by running anti-virus software.
- Watch out for odd emails from companies with which you conduct business. Many scammers have created copies of a company’s email style and similar email addresses. Good businesses will never ask for personal or sensitive information via email.
- Use a firewall and make sure it is turned on, but don’t run two at the same time. It can make your computer more vulnerable.
- Switch to a different Internet browser. Many allow you to personalize them to give you more control over privacy choices, pop-ups or tracking software.
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