Here’s a scary scenario. You’re innocently surfing the Web, maybe on an unfamiliar site, not paying close attention. Suddenly your computer screen fills with illegal pornographic images of minors. You try to navigate away, but a warning screen branded by the National Security Administration’s Internet Surveillance Program pops up with the message: “Your computer has been locked due to suspicion of illegal content downloading and distribution.”
You are then offered a sort of Hobson’s choice: Pay a fine immediately, or face prosecution for downloading child pornography.
The folks behind that scam were actually based in Russia, SC Magazine reported, not NSA headquarters. The number of people entrapped by this type of scam has been increasing exponentially. In a recent report from McAfee, an Internet security company, there were fewer than 25,000 samples of ransomware catalogued per quarter in the first half of 2011. In the second quarter of 2013 alone, the number of new samples multiplied to more than 320,000, (which was double the number in the first quarter of this year).
“During the past two quarters we have catalogued more ransomware than in all previous periods combined,” MacAfee found. “This trend is also reflected by warnings from law enforcement and federal agencies around the globe.”
If you think the most common cyber scam still involves deposed Nigerian royalty eliciting your help to extract fortunes from African banks, your time machine has stalled. Cyber ninjas have become far more creative, sophisticated and inscrutable. With that in mind, here are five links you should never, ever click.