UK Citizens Face Massive Online Threat

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Citizens of the UK have just two weeks to protect themselves from a dangerous computer virus that could potentially give hackers access to their personal information and cost the country billions of pounds. The National Crime Agency (NCA) said in a statement that they urge citizens to protect themselves from any malicious software by updating their anti-virus software and running frequent scans on their computers. UK based internet awareness group Get Safe Online said, “This warning is not intended to give you panic, but we cannot over-stress the importance of taking these steps immediately.”

The announcement comes after the FBI successfully stopped a group of hackers who were holding peoples personal information hostage, but the disruption is only temporary. The viruses are known as GOZeuS and CryptoLocker, and each is incredibly harmful and can invade your email, bank accounts, and other personal information.

GOZeuS hides itself within email attachments, and when opened can give hackers access to your computer. CryptoLocker is a secondary virus that activates if no valuable information is detected. This virus locks the computer from the user and does not give back access until a ransom is paid. If the victims do not pay on time, they lose the ability to do so and risk having their data permanently encrypted.

Hackers usually demand $300 to $700, typically requested in bitcoins. Andy Archibald, Deputy Director of the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Nobody wants their personal financial details, business information or photographs of loved ones to be stolen or held to ransom by criminals. By making use of this two-week window, huge numbers of people in the UK can stop that from happening to them.”

Cybercrime is often overlooked and seen as a laughable crime to be affected by, but its seriousness is very real. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) there were 262,813 reports of cybercrime last year, resulting in the losses over $781 million.

The IC3 became aware of the malicious CryptoLock in October of 2013 and have since become more knowledgeable of the malware and how it operates. The virus is so intricately designed that it is nearly impossible to completely wipe out.

Whether you find online security complicated, boring, or useless, now is the time to take action as cybercrimes are prevalent and could cost you immensely. There are numerous places where you can find cyber security help if you don’t know where to start.

Get Safe Online is a UK based website that focuses on providing information on online safety. According to its website it is “a unique resource providing practical advice on how to protect yourself, your computers, and mobile devices against fraud, identity theft, viruses and many other problems encountered online.” There are plenty of similar resources like Get Safe Online in America as well. US-Cert stands for United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team, which deals with major incidents, analyze threats, and exchange critical cyber security information with other trusted outlets.

The criminals committing cybercrimes are much smarter than your average criminal and are highly skilled in the art of staying anonymous. To keep you and your personal information safe, it is vital that you update your security software as often as possible and think twice before clicking on links or attachments from strange emails.

[Get Safe Online]

Trevor Smith

Featured image courtesy of [Don Hankins via Flickr]

Trevor Smith
Trevor Smith is a homegrown DMVer studying Journalism and Graphic Design at American University. Upon graduating he has hopes to work for the US State Department so that he can travel, learn, and make money at the same time. Contact Trevor at



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