Two men and one woman in Stoke on Trent arrested for using ransomware after investigation by the Police Central eCrime Unit
Detectives from the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) arrested three people yesterday in connection with using ransomware to blackmail people.
The PCeU said a 34-year-old man and 30-year-old woman from Stoke on Trent were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and possession of items for use in fraud. A third person, a 26-year-old man who is also from Stoke on Trent was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.
Detective Inspector Jason Tunn, from the PCeU, said: "The arrests shows we are determined to combat this type of crime.
The use of ransomware is a growing threat facing computer users. The problem first surfaced in 2009 but new research released in November by security company Norton shows that this form of cyber-attack is becoming increasingly common. The company warned it had the potential to become a real problem in 2013.
The fraudsters use the malware to create popup pages with blackmailing messages. Sometimes the hijack turns out to be a simple demand for money to unlock the PC but there is a nastier element.
Computeractive has been contacted by frightened readers who have received messages accusing them of visiting illegal sites and/or downloading images of child abuse.
The PCeU investigation centred on a gang using ransomware that allowed them to display what appeared to be an official notice from it or the Metropolitan police on a victim's PC. This splash page warned that the police had been monitoring illegal online activity by the computer user.
The victim is told that in order to unlock their PC they should pay a fine, often of around £100 via a money transfer system or pre-paid money card services, such as Ukash.
These payment companies are entirely innocent of the fraud and victims of this crime are urged not to be scared into paying this ‘fine'
"I remind all computer users that police do not use such a method to impose or enforce fines, so if you are confronted by such a page do not enter any of your details. Call police on 101," said DI Tunn.
The three people arrested are currently in custody at a Staffordshire police station.
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