Hackers have discovered a new way to part computer uses with their money. They plant malware on a computer that threatens to report the computer user to the police for viewing or distributing porn. It's a form of hacking called "ransomware," according to a new report by security company Symantec, which estimates hackers are earning upwards of $5 million a year from computer users who fall for the scam and pay the blackmail. Specifically, Symantec warns that: An investigation into one of the smaller players in this scam identified 68,000 compromised computers in just one month, which could have resulted in victims being defrauded of up to $400,000. ... Given the number of different gangs operating ransomware scams, a conservative estimate is that over $5 million a year is being extorted from victims. The real number is, however, likely much higher. One of the reasons the scam is so successful is that computer users tend to pick up this malware when they visit a porn site. The computer user is then shown an image purportedly from a government agency, like the FBI, claiming the computer has been locked because the computer was used to view pornography. Sometimes the ransomware message claims child pornography was found on the computer. And then it typically says the user must pay a fine within 72 hours or face arrest. Last year, the scam was mostly in Europe, but in 2012, its hit the U.S. with a vengeance, Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports. The best way to avoid porn blackmail is to avoid clicking on ads on adult sites and keep your PC up to date with the latest software patches, Symantec advises.
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