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Recent Reports of DHS-Themed Ransomware (UPDATE)

Original release date: July 30, 2013 | Last revised: July 31, 2013

US-CERT has received reports of increased activity concerning an apparently DHS-themed ransomware malware infection occurring in the wild. Users who are being targeted by the ransomware receive a message claiming that use of their computer has been suspended and that the user must pay a fine to unblock it. One iteration of this malware also takes a webcam (if available) photo or video of a recipient and posts it in a pop-up to add to the appearance of legitimacy. The ransomware falsely claims to be from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Division.

Users who are infected with the malware should consult with a reputable security expert to assist in removing the malware, or perform a clean reinstallation of their OS after formatting their computer's hard drive.

US-CERT and DHS encourage users and administrators not to pay the perpetrators and to report the incident to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Use caution when encountering these types of email messages and take the following preventive measures to protect themselves from phishing scams and malware campaigns that attempt to frighten and deceive a recipient for the purpose of illegal gain.

  • Do not click on or submit any information to webpages.
  • Do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages.
  • Use caution when opening email attachments. Refer to the Security Tip Using Caution with Email Attachments for more information on safely handling email attachments.
  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus software.
  • Users who are infected should change all passwords AFTER removing the malware from their system.
  • Refer to the Recognizing and Avoiding Email Scams (pdf) document for more information on avoiding email scams.
  • Refer to the Security Tip Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks for more information on social engineering attacks.

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