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From the Office of the Commissioner

Police in Northamptonshire urge people to clean their computers and protect against malware

Published on Monday 2 June 2014 at 13:43

Police are issuing crime prevention advice following the arrest of 17 people across the UK, all suspected of stealing information from personal computers.  

The 17 men were arrested on suspicion of using malicious software designed to take over, control and steal information from personal computers.

Over 15,800 devices are known to be infected in the UK with ‘Zeus GameOver’ malware that allows criminals to steal money from online accounts, capture passwords and personal data, turn on webcams remotely, or even morph into ransomeware that encrypts all the user’s files.  

Head of Cyber Crime for Northamptonshire Police, Detective Inspector Steve Henderson, said:

“Though nobody was arrested in Northamptonshire, it doesn’t mean people in the county aren’t at risk as this is a global phenomenon.

“There have been reports of people receiving messages on their computers and mobile phones purporting to be from their local police force, asking for money in order to have their files cleaned.

“Police would never ask for money in this way and anybody receiving such a message should contact us immediately on 101.
“I urge people to ensure they keep antivirus software regularly updated, and to back up their computers and other electronic devices to ensure files can be recovered”.

Follow the guidance below to ensure you don’t unwittingly install malware: 

•    Update your operating system, and check for updates weekly. These are free.

•    Install/update anti-virus or security software. This can be free for basic protection. It is recommended this is updated daily or ideally set to update automatically. 

•    Use caution before clicking on unsolicited email attachments or hyperlinks… they are one of the most common ways to get infected.
•    Visit http://www.getsafeonline.org/ and run a clean-up tool of your choice. This site provides plain English explanations, advice and host links to companies who have supported this activity and are offering clean up tools for free.

•    If you discover your computer has been infected with malware you should report it to http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/. Notify your bank and change all your passwords. 

•    General password advice: the strongest passwords tend to be phrases, which are easier to remember, with a mixture of numbers letters and other characters.

•    If anyone has had their computer encrypted by CryptoLocker, there is no way police can decrypt the files. Only the decryption key held by the criminals will do this. The criminal business model means that files usually are decrypted if a ransom is paid, though police would never recommend paying a ransom to criminals.

•    Anyone who has been infected (whether they've paid a ransom or not) should ensure they still update their operating systems and run anti virus/security software on their vulnerable machine.

•    For CryptoLocker, prevention is better than cure. Users should backup copies of their most important files to a non-networked system (e.g. record on DVD or external hard drive that is unplugged once backed up).

•    Beware cold-calling from people offering to fix or remotely clean computers. This is invariably a scam. Always be sure of who is calling and if any doubt don’t grant them access to your computer. None of the legitimate tools designed to protect users require remote access to the computer. Members of the public should always seek advice from http://www.getsafeonline.org/ before taking unfamiliar steps.

•    At present this specific malware only affects Windows computers, but diligence is advised on all operating systems (including smartphones) as criminals seek to exploit every available platform.

Anybody who believes they have lost money through malware should report is a www.actionfraud.police.uk













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