The National Crime Agency is advising people to ensure their security software is installed and updated, as the UK has been hit by a powerful malware designed to infect computers and mine them for valuable information.
15,000 computers in the UK and around 1 million globally have already been infected. The FBI says attacked computers can display any of these symptoms:
Computer system operates very slowly
Cursor moves erratically with no input
Unauthorised logins to bank accounts or unauthorised money transfers
Text-based chat windows appear on a computer’s desktop unexpectedly
Computer files lock up and a ransom demand is made to unlock files
The NCA and the Home Office is urging people to take the time to protect themselves, as much as they can, by doing the following:
1. Install updates
This is a minimum precaution. Install updates to your operating systems and web browser on your computer and mobile devices.
2. Install antivirus software
Install specific antivirus software to your computer.
3. Do not open an attachment unless you are certain of its orgins
The aggressive virus is contained inside an attachment, and can be activated through a click
Once downloaded, the file scans the computer looking for data on how to access your accounts, the NCA said
If it does not find this information, it freezes the computer, and flashes a payment demand on screen
4. Back up your files
Make sure all of your files, including documents, photos, music and bookmarks are all backed up and readily available in case you are no longer able to access them for your computer.
5. Strengthen your passwords
Passwords should be nonsensical, contain a mix of numbers, symbols, and lower and uppercase letters.
Do not make your passwords similar to your usernames
Never store passwords on your computer in case they can be accessed by your the malware
6. Shop online safely
Keep any stored card details safe by having a secure password
If you have a PayPal account, make sure you have updated your password
If paying on a mobile phone, consider installing a mobile anti-virus
7. Monitor (and update) social media privacy settings
Make sure you know exactly what you are sharing and who you are sharing it with
Adjust your privacy settings on Facebook - showing acquaintances a slimmed down version of your profile - a guide to best practice can be found here.
For more information, go to Cyber Streetwise.
For more information on the malware, go to the Home Office page on getting safe online.