The other day I was subjected to one of the more clever malware scams that I have seen. While browsing for some information my screen did a series of flickers and changes as if something was trying to take control of my screen. It was as if a war was being waged for control when it appeared my laptop had lost the battle when this ominous message appeared; “Your windows PC has been locked.” My mind immediately drew to ransomware and that someone was now going to charge me to regain control of my information. They had gotten me!
I was cautioned that if I didn’t contact technical support my information could be either permanently lost of even worse stolen. Passwords, personal information, and all of my data was now up for grabs. How helpful there was a toll-free number for me to call to save me. How gracious of Microsoft to provide its services to bail me out. I’m naturally suspicious, but in the heat of the moment, I decided to call the toll-free number. The minute I heard the voice on the other end I immediately called foul. I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what the accent sounded like. In any event, I decided to play along to see where this would go.
It started off simple enough with executing the Windows + R command. This key sequence brings up the Run command. The Run command is a very powerful function in windows. It allows the user to run command-line instructions that can be very powerful in the right hands. It was then that I decided to play ignorant. I decided I couldn’t understand their heavily accented dialect. Then I decided to query my helpful service technician on where he was calling from. How do I know you are really with Microsoft? I’ve never heard of Microsoft offering free technical support through a toll-free number and how I was surprised someone picked up right away. After indulging me for a few minutes I was introduced to Mr. Click.
Malware Tips provides this background on this scam. “The “Your computer has been Locked” fake error messages are a social engineering attack that puts your browser on full screen and displays pop-up messages that won’t go away, essentially locking your browser. These fake error messages aim to trick you into calling an indicated technical support hotline. If you call these scammers, they can offer fake solutions for your “problems” and ask for payment in the form of a one-time fee or subscription to a purported support service.”
Bottom line – no matter how convincing, always take these authentic-looking messages with a grain of suspicion. When in doubt- don’t call, click, or run any commands you don’t know the impact of. Scammers count or your PC ignorance and panic to reel you in. Don’t fall for it!