The virus activates the computer webcam to show a live picture
Authorities are tracking a new computer virus that uses a fake "FBI" message in an attempt to extort money from its victims.
Called "Reveton Ransomware," officials say the virus is installed on a computer when a user visits a compromised website. The computer then locks, while displaying a warning that the FBI or Department of Justice has identified the computer as being involved in criminal activity. The fake message instructs users to pay a fine using a prepaid money card service, which will unlock the computer.
The computer's webcam is also activated, showing the user a live picture of themselves.
"We started seeing versions of this virus last year, but of course, like all scams, it morphs over time," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Marshal Stone, of the Knoxville Division.
Stone says FBI officials do not conduct business in that fashion, and would never demand payment to unlock a computer.
The virus has already found victims in East Tennessee. Sean Woods of "Computer Solutions" in Seymour says he has worked three cases within the past week.
"In this case, a person will lose everything that they've ever had. If it's not backed up, it's gone," he said.
Officials have not confirmed which websites lead to the virus, but Woods says he is connecting some trends. He believes users are picking up the virus through shared files, illegal downloads, or websites commonly linked to bugs.
"You don't know who's going on your computer and what they're doing," he said, cautioning users to be careful who they share a computer with."They download content such as music... they're out there for you to go view, this is where you're getting hit."
Woods says users should also keep their virus protection software up to date.
The FBI encourages any victims of the virus to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complain Center at www.ic3.gov.