If you browse the Internet, beware.
Christopher Dias, computer consultant and president of Tech911, said there is a new virus out in cyber space, and it’s wreaking havoc on users.
“In the past six weeks we’ve seen 40 cases,” he said. “And we’re a small firm.”
Dias said the virus, which experts have dubbed the “2012 rootkit virus” is the worst he’s seen in eight years.
The virus asks users to install what looks like a legitimate Microsoft update or anti-virus software, and says the name of the computers’ operating system (Windows Vista, or XP for example) and the number “2012.”
It then prompts the user to enter personal information, like their credit card number, name and address.
“This is how credit card fraud begins,” said Dias.
But users are likely to have contracted the virus before they enter their information. Dias said as soon as users see the prompt to “install” the software, they’ve gotten the virus. He urges people to shut down their computer and call a technician for help as soon as they suspect they may have clicked on the virus.
Dias said getting the virus isn’t fool proof, and even those who are computer savvy might miss the warning signs.
“I’ve had smart people get it,” he said.
Dias warned not to click on any suspicious or unexpected links on Facebook or in your email.
“If you’re not sure, message the sender and ask them if they really sent it,” he said.
He said it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the 2012 rootkit virus.
The word “rootkit” is an industry term for software that operates under the radar. It allows privileged access to the computer, while hiding from administrators.
Though 2012 rootkit is a Microsoft-based virus, Dias said Mac users are not exempt. Often he hears Mac users saying their computers don’t get viruses at all, but this is not entirely true. He explained that Macs sometimes run Windows operating systems and programs, which can be infected.
The reason it’s a Microsoft-based virus?
“Microsoft has 73 percent of the computer industry,” he said. “Windows is the largest operating system. They want the virus to affect the most computers possible. It’s coded to destroy the largest operating system.”
So far, no cases have been seen on smart phones, which typically use Linux or Unix operating systems.
The point of the virus, which Dias said was likely made by “mafia geeks,” is not just to defraud people, but to cause damage.
“Their goal is to make money, but they care more about how much damage they can cause. The [mafia geeks] are competing against each other,” he said.
The virus will delete information from the computer, and cause applications, like Microsoft Word, to not work. The longer the user lets their computer run after the virus is installed, the more damage it will cause. Curing an infected computer with a virus scrub costs about $125 and takes two to three days, said Dias.
Currently, anti-virus software doesn’t detect the 2012 rootkit and there is no “cure.” Technicians like Dias have had to back up data and restore it onto 80 percent of infected machines.
Dias suspects Microsoft will release a quick-fix cure for the virus in about a month, but until then, Dias fears the virus will cause a lot more damage.