Imagine this: You're sitting at your computer surfing the web. You're clicking around when suddenly your computer locks up. Your own image appears on the screen, obviously taken by your webcam -- but you didn't even turn your webcam on. More ominous still, a window, which you can't close, pops open to inform you that the FBI knows you were looking at child pornography and you're in big trouble. To get back the use of your computer, you'll have to send in a fine to the FBI at the email address listed on the screen or federal criminal charges will be filed.
Don't panic. Don't send money or personal information. The email address looks just like a real FBI email, but it's not. It's all a scam. The FBI does not demand money; rather, agents will execute a search warrant to seize the computer and/or make an arrest.
This is called the "Reveton virus," and it's a type of computer malware called "ransomware." Hackers have been disseminating this virus since at least 2011, and it has become only more widespread in the U.S. and internationally since then.
An important thing to understand about the Reveton virus is that it is so-called "drive-by malware." That means you don't have to open a file or email attachment to activate the virus -- you only have to happen upon a compromised website while you're surfing the web.
"Some people have actually paid the so-called fine," a cyber crime expert from the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, told reporters. The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI and the National White-Collar Crime Center that was established in 2000 as a centralized cybercrime complaint and referral system.
Being falsely accused of viewing Internet child pornography can be terrifying, and the scammers are relying on your fear. If you are affected by the Reveton virus or any kind of ransomware, the FBI and the IC3 urge you to file a complaint at www.ic3.gov.
A serious issue may arise if the hacker downloads child pornography onto your computer. Any computer repair company that discovers child pornography while working on a computer will call law enforcement. The resulting consequences may be an investigation. If, however, you are at all concerned that you could be charged with possession of child pornography on your computer -- knowingly or unknowingly -- you should contact a defense attorney right away.
Source: 3KRTV.com, "FBI internet scam warning: Reveton ransomware," MTN News - Helena, Jan. 12, 2013