07/17/2013 10:30 am ET Updated Sep 14, 2013

Ransomware Computer Virus Poses Financial Threat to Computer Users

Over recent years, computer and broadband related technology has come a long way. This has resulted in both consumers and individuals becoming increasingly reliant on their PCs and other internet enabled devices. However, while this advanced technology has provided commercial and residential users with far greater ease and convenience in a huge number of ways, it has also given rise to the growing breed of crime known as cyber-crime.

Used for everything from extorting money and obtaining information through to the out-and-out sabotage of systems, cyber-crime has become a huge problem in the United States and in other countries around the world. In a recent warning, federal authorities in the United States have urged users to be vigilant as a result of another virus that is current doing the rounds with the intention of obtaining money from unsuspecting users.

According to authorities, the 'ransomeware' computer virus is duping users into handing over their cash by locking their computer systems and displaying a warning message. The contents of the message are designed to lead users into thinking that the warning is from the Department of Justice or the courts. Users are told via the message that they have to make a payment or they could be prosecuted. However, officials have confirmed that government departments do not send out messages of this nature and the computer is locked by a virus that has been set up by cyber criminals looking to extort money from the public.

Dan Steiner, Security Expert from Online Virus Repair advised that making a payment in response to the message will not result in the user's computer being unlocked by the criminals. He said:

Computers affected by this virus will remain frozen until the user makes arrangements to have the virus removed. Those affected by the virus should refrain from making what is essentially a ransom payment, even if they are desperate to regain control of their computer, as paying will make no difference to anything other than their bank balances.

This is one in a long line of computer viruses that cyber-criminals are using to target both individuals and businesses. A similar virus was reported late last year, where users were receiving similar messages demanding payment and threatening prosecution. The U.S Justice Department has set up a hotline for those who want to obtain more information as well as those who have already fallen victim to this scam and wish to report it.

Over recent weeks, reports have highlighted how this virus has been gaining popularity, affecting computer users on a global basis. Authorities are hoping that raising awareness about the scam will help to stop more people falling victim to it.