« Hunter Stirs Outrage After Posting Photo of Dead Lion | Main | Toronto City Council Strips Mayor Rob Ford of Some Powers »

Email Ransom Scam Targets Small Businesses in the UK

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Police in the United Kingdom are warning of a ransom scam targeting computer users.

The virus, called Cryptolocker, travels in email attachments. If the attachment is opened, the virus strikes.

The emails, sent from people pretending to be from banks or other financial institutions, are mostly targeting small businesses, not individuals.

Dublin-based information security consultant Brian Honan told ABC News how people get fooled.

"They'll disguise the email to look like it comes from your bank... it'll have maybe all the various logos," Honan said.

The virus then encrypts all the information on the computer and shows a countdown timer demanding a ransom.

According to Honan, people who haven't updated their computer's anti-virus software are at a higher risk.

"If your computer doesn't have the most up to date anti-virus software or if your computer doesn't have the latest security patches onto it that virus will download onto your machine and encrypt your hard disc," Honan said.

And he warned that paying the ransom doesn't necessarily hold the key to unlocking your computer.

"Once you pay them the money is gone. You may get the password to unlock your data ...and in some cases you don't."

Honan's advice for protection from the virus: everyone should back up their computer data and potential victims should contact their bank.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio